The fire department of this small Newfoundland town is fed up with the local emergency services

Wabana's Fire Department Captain Terry King says they had to respond to multiple calls where no ambulance showed up.  (Curtis Hicks/CBC - photo credit)

Wabana’s Fire Department Captain Terry King says they had to respond to multiple calls where no ambulance showed up. (Curtis Hicks/CBC – photo credit)

Terry King, Captain of the Wabana Volunteer Fire Department, wants to clarify a few things: First, two ambulances are said to be manned at all times in his Bell Island town. And second, its volunteer firefighters are trained to only provide advanced first aid, nothing more.

But lately, King says they’ve been asked to do more than they ever have to and he’s growing concerned about public safety.

That’s because Fewer’s Ambulance is understaffed, King says, sometimes with no ambulances on the island for hours. In this case, the medical emergency calls fall to the volunteer firefighters, who have to deal with them themselves.

“If our firefighters went out on one of those medical calls and did the wrong thing, someone could be seriously injured. And we don’t want that to happen. That’s why we’re in touch,” King said on Monday.

King whistled after an incident Saturday when his fire department was called from Fewers Ambulance Dispatch to attend a medical call for a patient with heart problems. King said they thought they were going to help paramedics lift a patient into the ambulance. When they got there, however, they found that only one ambulance was manned that night and that it was already on its way to St. John’s with another patient.

To make matters worse, King said the hospital was also closed due to a doctor shortage.

“These people need to be hospitalized as soon as possible,” he said. “And firstly, we don’t have medical transport, so we can’t medical transport her. Then we go to the hospital to find out that the hospital is locked. So we have to wait for the ambulance to get back to Bell Island before we can move that person.”

Source: Julian Calverley

Source: Julian Calverley

King said there have been two other incidents in recent months that put her in a bad position. Just two weeks ago they had another similar call for medical assistance only to find there was no ambulance. In that case, King said, the patient was able to get into the truck with them and ride to the hospital.

“What will be next time? What will the next call be? That is our greatest fear.”

CBC News has contacted Fewer’s Ambulance and owner Bob Fewer for comment.

Workers from seven of Fewer’s ambulance services went on strike earlier this winter, protesting wages and working conditions. They were legally restored to work after three days, and the provincial labor board is now working out an essential services agreement. Once that is done, members can return to the picket line while maintaining a basic minimum service.

city ​​manager to speak

Wabana City Manager Jordon Blackwood also worries about how this could end. He sent a message to CBC Newfoundland and Labrador Sunday night saying Fewers had neglected his responsibilities to the town of Wabana and the people of Bell Island.

“You are to have two ambulances and staff on Bell Island at all times in case we have an emergency transfer to St. John’s and an ambulance needs to go there [the Health Sciences Centre in St. John’s]. You have not met those conditions.”

Blackwood said firefighters aren’t qualified to do the work they’re asked to do in cases like Saturday’s call, but they continue to help where they can.

“Leers call us and ask us to respond to those calls. Due to the negligence of Fewers Ambulance, we will not see anyone in our community without care. The level of patient care is incredible. When our volunteer fire brigade responds to these calls, Fewers Ambulance will be paid for that call and we will provide the service. The City cannot and will not be held liable for Fewer’s Ambulance’s negligence.”

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