I’ve been following the correspondence and articles responding to EMS’ plans to temporarily locate ambulance services at the Mine Rescue Station on Range Road, and I have been surprised at the passionate opposition of the public to having life-saving services in their backyard.
Emergency response services across the country are strategically located for rapid response. This means that they are located in urban, and often residential, areas.
Because that is where the largest segment of the population lives.
Locating ambulance services outside the urban areas removes them from the people whose lives they are called to save. It increases their response time, and it costs lives.
While the residents of Takhini North may be concerned about the noise of an ambulance siren disturbing their lives, I have always equated the sound of an ambulance siren with saving lives.
The population of Whitehorse should be more concerned with the lack of that siren Ã‰ or in how long that sound takes to get to their neighbourhood when they really need it.
Yukon residents may want to consider some statistics with serious and life-threatening implications before continuing to oppose the relocation of ambulance services:
Six minutes. The time it takes between your heart stopping (cardiac arrest) and permanent brain damage.
Nine minutes. The Canadian benchmark for ambulance response times.
Twelve minutes. The time it takes Yukon EMS to reach Copper Ridge and Porter Creek.
Nineteen minutes. The time it takes ambulance services to reach McPherson subdivision.
Yukon EMS’ decision to move to a residential area with a growing population, located with easy access to downtown, is an impressive strategic decision. In an emergency, time is the difference between life and death. Six minutes is all it takes for irreversible brain damage to take place if your heart stops beating. Four to six minutes is all it takes for brain damage to occur if a child stops breathing.
The status quo will cost lives. EMS’ current location at the hospital prevents them from saving lives by delaying their response times. Located across the Yukon River, emergency services would be cut off from the majority of the population should a bridge give out; and having to negotiate downtown traffic to respond to calls from the growing populations of Takhini North, Copper Ridge and Porter Creek, increases their response time. The option of housing at the airport is no better, because it offers no direct route to town.
Some more statistics to consider:
The average age men and women are at an increased risk of heart attack is 45 to 55.
The population of Whitehorse is 25,636.
The population of Whitehorse aged 45 or older is 10,075.
More than one-third of Whitehorse is at an increased risk of heart attacks, and this population is aging and will require more emergency medical services.
EMS has been discussing a new location since 2007 because it has recognized that poor response times cost lives. EMS are the only emergency services with training to save lives. While the RCMP or fire department may reach you faster, you will still have to wait for EMS to treat you and to make sure you stay alive on the way to the hospital.
Given that it is difficult enough to find accommodations in Whitehorse, it must be even more difficult to find a strategically located, cost-effective, temporary accommodation for ambulances and emergency services equipment that will decrease response times and help save lives.
After four years of talking about moving locations, Yukon EMS must have jumped at the opportunity offered by the Mine Rescue Station. Unfortunately, in doing so, they also neglected to consult with the people they serve: the population of Whitehorse.
Much of the concern from the community at Takhini North is the lack of public consultation involved in the process, and that I understand. Find fault with the process, but don’t attack the ambulance service and the strategic location chosen to improve response times and save lives.
It will take another four years for EMS to build its facility on Two Mile Hill. How much longer are Whitehorse residents willing to wait while precious minutes are shaved off their lives Ã minutes that are the difference between life and death?
If the statistics don’t speak to you, if you are still concerned about your quality of life being disrupted by an ambulance siren wailing in your backyard when it’s been called to save a life, consider this: Whitehorse is a small town. It could be your neighbour, or your husband, or your child waiting for that ambulance.
And while six minutes may not seem that long, it is a lifetime in an emergency.
It is a poor state of affairs when people think that an ambulance station erodes their quality of life.