Couple wants permanent ambulance base near Two Mile Hill

After Shandell McCarthy and Marco Paquet's 17-month-old son choked to death, they started knocking on doors as part of a neighbourhood lobbying effort to improve ambulance response times.

After Shandell McCarthy and Marco Paquet’s 17-month-old son choked to death, they started knocking on doors as part of a neighbourhood lobbying effort to improve ambulance response times.

The Takhini-area couple wanted to share their story with neighbours opposed to an ambulance station in the community.

In July, their son Brennan McCarthy-Paquet choked on a piece of dried macaroni he found while playing in the drawer under the kitchen stove. It took eight minutes for an ambulance to arrive at their door. For McCarthy and Paquet it felt like an eternity.

Had an ambulance station been closer to home, emergency personnel may have been able to resuscitate their son.

“It might have made the difference of having him here now,” said McCarthy.

In June, a few weeks before the infant died, the territory’s Emergency Measures Organization asked the city to accommodate a temporary ambulance station in the Mine Rescue building on Range Road.

Citing concerns about noise, residents convinced the government to shelve the idea.

Among the opponents were McCarthy and Paquet.

Initially, the couple didn’t want ambulance station near their home. Like many in the subdivision, they thought it would be too noisy.

“We live on Range Road and the ambulance would have passed by our house,” said McCarthy.

“It would have gone right by (our son’s) bedroom window.”

But their son’s death changed all that.

McCarthy and Paquet met with Community Services Minister Archie Lang to talk about improving emergency response times in Whitehorse.

They gathered 1,000 signatures supporting a station at the top of Two Mile Hill

And McCarthy started a Facebook group called We Support an Ambulance Station on Range Road that now has more than 500 members.

It countered a previous Facebook page started by Takhini residents called Takhini Says No to More Sirens.

The couple knocked on about 300 doors in Whitehorse, handing out ambulance information and explaining their story.

“It probably made a difference for people to hear a real story that’s close to home,” said McCarthy.

“A lot of people in the community have kids and I think they realized this could easily happen to them.”

Only a handful of people remained opposed to the ambulance station after meeting with the couple, she said.

In early August, an ambulance crew moved into the Protective Services building at the top of Two Mile Hill offering daytime ambulance service.

Last week they started offering around-the-clock service.

The government denied the temporary station was related to baby McCarthy-Paquet’s death. But McCarthy believes otherwise.

“I think this location was a result of that – of what happened,” she said in a previous interview with the News.

While knocking on doors, McCarthy encountered a lot of frustration with the fact the government hadn’t educated them about response times in the city.

It takes 10 minutes for an ambulance to reach the top of Two Mile Hill from Riverdale, a minute longer than the standard nine-minute response time.

To get to a house in MacPherson takes almost triple that time – about 20 to 30 minutes, said McCarthy.

When a daycare in Granger phoned 911 last year, it took 25 minutes for the ambulance to get there, she pointed out.

If people knew response times in their neighbourhood they might educate themselves about first aid, said McCarthy.

“You take it for granted that eight minutes is a quick response time. You think it’s good enough,” she said.

“But when you’re in the situation, and you don’t know what to do, it’s frightening.”

She welcomes the temporary ambulance station in Takhini, but thinks the government should be doing more to address emergency issues in the territory.

“If the (Robert Service) bridge collapsed or there were ever an accident to block access on the bridge, you’d be in deep trouble,” she said.

“The government is focusing on economic development and mining and my opinion is that there is no thought to people’s safety.”

Contact Vivian Belik at vivianb@yukon-news.com

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