Skip to content

Baby dies in Barriere while waiting for ambulance

Mayor calling for action by province to restore ambulance service to small communities
Barriere ambulance station
The BC Ambulance Service station in Barriere.

An eight-month-old baby has passed away in Barriere while waiting for an ambulance, devastating a young family in the North Thompson community about 45 minutes north of Kamloops.

When the child went into cardiac arrest on the night of Aug. 25, an ambulance was called, but none were available in Barriere. Instead, an ambulance had to be dispatched from Kamloops. But the baby died before that ambulance arrived. It is not known if the outcome would have been different had an ambulance arrived earlier. BC Emergency Health Services stated the closest available ambulance was dispatched to the Barriere call and that it is reviewing the call.

For a number of years, Barriere and area was under 24-hour ambulance coverage. That changed last summer when the province revamped the community’s ambulance coverage to become a 24/7 alpha station. The change now requires paramedics with a higher level of training than what had previously been acceptable. But changing the training requirements has created a problem in trying to fill paramedic positions for ambulances and the smaller communities are losing out.

“This is a tragic situation for the family,” Barriere Mayor Ward Stamer told the Barrier Star-Journal. “At this point, I have no way of knowing what actually occurred until I talk to the ambulance service. Right now, it’s speculation regarding what actually happened.”

He added the problem of dealing with the loss of local ambulance service has been happening for a long time.

“We’re not the only community that’s having this happen,” Stamer said. “I don’t know if the time delay was a contributing factor or not, but we have some significant gaps in our health-care system and now it’s showing what can happen when you have these gaps. This ongoing problem needs to be addressed now.”

Stamer said Barriere is not the only small community dealing with ambulance service issues.

“They just threw a bunch of money to the doctors – what are they doing about the ambulance care?” Stamer asked. “This needs to be thrown back in their lap and let them explain it. We want to hear from the B.C. minister of health regarding plans to get service returned to the smaller communities who are struggling, as we are, with the loss of their ambulance services.”

Two people in the rural community of Ashcroft — about 45 minutes southwest of Kamloops — died within a month of each other while waiting for ambulance service in that community, which also has a 24/7 alpha ambulance station.

On Aug. 14, a man in severe medical distress died within a half-block of the town’s BC Ambulance Service station after an ambulance from Clinton took nearly 30 minutes to reach him. On July 17, an Ashcroft woman who had gone into cardiac arrest died while waiting for an ambulance to arrive on a weekend the local emergency room was closed due to staffing shortages. It is not known if the outcomes would have been different had responses been quicker.