Saturna Island man sent to hospital after contact with bat but leaves with only phone number

Saturna Island man sent to hospital after contact with bat but leaves with only phone number
WatchJust days after a young Parksville man died of rabies we're learning about one man's frustrating experience after he touched a dead bat and was told to seek immediate medical attention

Robert Montgomery has a lesson that could save others times and money if they come into contact with a bat.

“A week or so ago I found a dead bat on my living room floor,” he said.

Montgomery, who lives on Saturna Island, said he’s had bats living in his attic for years, but he was surprised to see one dead on his carpet. He decided to pick it up and take a closer look.

“So I picked it up and kind of looked at it, turned it over and explored it, it was a little furry brown thing,” he said.

He buried it outside and didn’t think about it again until a week later when he saw news coverage of a 21-year-old Parksville man who died of rabies after brief contact with a bat on Vancouver Island.

Montgomery picked up the phone right away and called B.C.’s 8-1-1 nursing hotline, and then 9-1-1, and both told him to hop on a ferry immediately and get to a hospital for treatment.

But when he eventually made it to the doors of the Saanich Peninsula Emergency Room in Central Saanich, a triage nurse soon told him they wouldn’t be able to treat him.

“They told me they could not do anything about it, that they were not able to deal with the rabies injections,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery was told instead to go to the Royal Jubilee Emergency Room. He waited for several hours and eventually gave up at 11 p.m., 12 hours after his first phone call. He didn’t leave with a vaccine but with a piece of paper and a phone number for Island Health’s Communicable Disease Unit.

It’s a hotline being overwhelmed with calls like Montgomery’s after Monday’s tragic news.

“We’ve definitely a lot more calls and visits to health care providers in various settings,” said Dr. Dee Hoyano, Island Health’s Medical Health Officer.

But Hoyano says the emergency room shouldn’t be the first stop for people who’ve had had physical contact with a bat. There are three communicable disease clinics on Vancouver Island you should call, or go to, first.

“So we’re assessing all of those cases and in some of those circumstances we’re recommending prophylaxis with vaccine and in some cases they’re deemed not to be a risk,” she said.

After making his phone call Montgomery was considered low risk and told he would not require a vaccine.

While he said it would have been nice to know before making the trip from Saturna Island, he said he’s glad he had the experience so others will now know the right steps to take after physical contact with a bat.

Victoria Communicable Disease Clinic: 1-866-665-6626

Nanaimo Communicable Disease Clinic: 1-866-770-7798

Courtenay Communicable Disease Clinic: 1-877-887-8835

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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