MLA Bernier: erase border when it comes to emergencies

The idea of a borderline seems to grow in importance the further away you are from it.

Here in the Peace, we have natural connections with friends and family just on the other side of the 120th meridian. Many people who live here work, shop and play on both sides of the border. The border evaporates for everything except taxes.

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But the border was a harsh reality that sadly prevented one member of our community from getting fast, emergency health care that may have saved her young life. I brought the tragic case of 20-year-old Samantha Bennetts to the floor of the Legislature during recent debates on the Health Ministry budget.  Her family asked me to bring her story to Victoria so what happened to Samantha doesn’t happen again.

This young woman, her whole life in front of her, was seriously injured in a car crash. She needed to be transferred to a trauma hospital – and that needed to happen fast. But sadly, the exact opposite happened.

Instead, Samantha slowly deteriorated in a hospital bed in Fort St. John as she waited hours and hours to be flown to Vancouver. Her family were told again and again through that horrible day that the BC Ambulance plane was on its way. It appears that after an hour or two, when it was supposed to land, they were told the plane has been cancelled. That was merely the start of a tragic sequence of events. After the mechanical issues of the plane were solved, the pilots had timed out. New pilots were needed. But pilots couldn’t be found.

By the time the plane arrived and got Samantha to Vancouver 18 hours later her parents were given the heartbreaking news. Samantha could not be resuscitated, and her parents’ only decision was to consider organ donations.

But there was another option. Edmonton is a lot closer than Vancouver. STARS Air Ambulance could have had Samantha to Edmonton in two hours, and in a hospital bed. No one can say if it would have changed the sad outcome, but it very well could have tipped the scales in Samantha’s favor.

But sadly the decision made was standard policy – to prioritize using BC’s Air Ambulance Service over Alberta-based STARS. That’s putting policy ahead of people. And here in the Peace, it ignores the reality of our lives – and the power that co-operation can have in an emergency. The border between BC and Alberta seems way more important in far off Victoria than it does here.

I’m proud to have raised this issue on behalf of the family, and I welcomed the confirmation I got from Health Minister Adrian Dix that work is under way between the BC Ambulance Service and Alberta Health Services to develop an agreement to tackle situations just like Samantha’s. He also promised to keep me informed as the agreement is developed and I will keep the People of the Peace updated.

It’s the right approach to find a deal because putting bureaucratic rules or political goals ahead of finding ways to co-operate across borders is just wrong. After all, we are all Canadians, whether we live in British Columbia or Alberta.


© Copyright Dawson Creek Mirror News


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