Ambulance overuse an abuse

There are some individuals who use the Whitehorse ambulance service 150 per cent, says Yukon Medical Association president Rao Tadepalli.

There are some individuals who use the Whitehorse ambulance service 150 per cent, says Yukon Medical Association president Rao Tadepalli.

“It’s a daily occurrence,” he said.

And it’s “taking medical personnel away from, potentially, another life-saving event.”

At the Salvation Army shelter, when a client is too intoxicated to stay the night, staff call the cops.

“But the drunk tank is not an appropriate place for people who have addictions,” said RCMP Sgt. Don Rogers.

Before shipping someone to the drunk tank, police attempt to get a breath sample to determine the level of intoxication.

If their blood alcohol is more than four times the legal limit, they’re taken to the hospital.

“Our overall concern is safety of the person,” said Rogers.

If police have any doubts, the ambulance is called.

At the shelter, if someone’s too intoxicated to control their bowels, staff call the cops.

But that’s a medical emergency, said Rogers.

“They would need to be assessed by medical personnel.”

The ambulance is over-used, said Tadepalli.

“And we are looking for (the RCMP) to help us and maybe take people to the drunk tank, especially the unruly ones,” he said. “Sometimes they’re helpful and sometimes they’re not.

“And I feel they’re not helpful because they are busy with other social problems, so I can’t blame them for that.

“I know they are probably overserviced too.”

Whitehorse emergency medical services is currently short staffed, said its manager, Terry Klassen.

“We have a few vacancies,” he said. “And staffing is always something we’re looking at.”

Assessing ambulance abuse or overuse is not part of Klassen’s mandate.

“In our world, whenever someone makes a 911 call we respond,” he said.

“And we transport intoxicated patients.

“It’s always patients first.”

When a 911 call comes in, the ambulance responds and assesses the scene.

If needed, the cops are called in to assist.

“We work closely with the police,” said Klassen.

“But if people in Whitehorse call 911 they will always get a response.”

There are some people who use the hospital like a taxi service, said Tadepalli.

If someone just lies down on the road, the ambulance will come and get them, he said.

Once at the hospital, they’re sent home in a taxi.

“It’s not just a medical problem, it’s a huge social problem,” he said.

The RCMP always errs on the side of caution when it comes to calling the ambulance, said Rogers.

“And do we always make the right call?

“Well, we’re human. But we do our best.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com