Quadra Island man wants BC Ferries to change its medical emergency policy

Quadra Island man wants BC Ferries to change its medical emergency policy

WATCH: A Quadra Island man is calling on B.C. Ferries to change the way it deals with medical emergencies. The 62-year-old suffered a heart attack on Thursday. When his wife tried to get their vehicle onto an overloaded ferry, they were told to call 911 instead. As Kendall Hanson tells us, B.C. Ferries says it’s medical personnel who should make the call.

Still on a heart monitor David Alger is feeling remarkably well considering his near-death experience Thursday.

The Quadra Island man was biking on the Island when he started having symptoms consistent with a heart attack.

He called his wife who picked him up and tried to get them on the next sailing to Campbell River to go to the hospital.

But the ship was overloaded and a B.C. Ferries worker denied their request to jump the queue.

“The gist of it was we had to call the ambulance and I tried to explain and I think my wife was trying to explain that really the best thing for us is to get to the hospital as quickly as possible,” said Alger. “The ambulance would be 30 to 40 minutes probably. It would be quite the delay.”

911 was called and volunteer firefighters arrived and provided Alger with oxygen. Some vehicles were offloaded on the Campbell River side before the ferry rushed back to get Alger in an ambulance. He says he arrived at Campbell River hospital about 45 minutes after he would have had they been allowed to board the initial sailing.

Following the incident, B.C. Ferries made another additional sailing to bring the sole Quadra Island ambulance back.

“I think the deck officers have to have discretion,” said Alger. “They’re in the best position to determine what’s the best route of action. Should we wait for an ambulance, should we hold the ferry, should we transport this person immediately.”

But B.C. Ferries says it should be health professionals making the decisions on how to best transport patients, be it by air, ferry or potentially even the coast guard.

“It’s for the safety of our customers because we don’t have medical professionals on board our ferry,” said Tessa Humphries, B.C. Ferries Communication Manager. “We can’t risk having a customer going into a serious medical emergency on the sailing without having a medical professional to give them the care that they need.”

Alger was flown to Victoria where a stent was put in his heart. He says everyone in the health care system has been top notch and his release from the hospital is expected Monday.

He says he will write B.C.’s Transportation Minister about his concerns.

B.C. Ferries says it will review the incident with B.C. Ambulance but says patients in a medical emergency should always call 911 as soon as possible.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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