An online petition calling for the removal of a BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) executive has received thousands of signatures over the past few days.
Directed at Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan, it urges the firing of BCEHS Chief Operating Officer Darlene MacKinnon following British Columbia’s devastating heat wave.
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The COO chairs the BCEHS’ Senior Leadership Committee, which is responsible for providing strategic direction across the organization.
The petition argues that despite having a week of advance notice, BCEHS’ senior management team did nothing to prepare.
“Despite ample warnings raised by staff about the potential for massively increased call volumes, BCEHS did not upstaff any ambulances or dispatch centers, did not permit its paramedics to wear more appropriate uniforms, and did not even acknowledge the crisis until it was in its fourth day,” the petition writes.
The heat wave brought unprecedented temperatures across all parts of the province. Countless areas saw temperature records broken on a daily basis, with daytime highs reaching the upper 30s and low 40s.
On July 2, the BC Coroner Service released a report stating that 719 deaths were reported between June 25 and July 1. While officials weren’t able to attribute all of the sudden death reports to the extreme heat wave, they indicated that it likely played a major role.
It was also noted that the 719 deaths were a preliminary number and could continue to grow larger as more reports come in.
“It is believed likely the extreme weather BC has experienced in the past week is a significant contributing factor to the number of deaths,” said BC’s Chief Coroner, Lisa Lapointe.
The petition paints a grim picture, saying that “paramedics on duty reported going from hopeless cardiac arrest to hopeless cardiac arrest, the patients having waited hours for help before dying.”
“Dispatch staff reported hundreds of calls waiting in queue to be dispatched, and callers waiting up to 17 minutes to have their 9-1-1 calls answered.”
A nurse who signed the petition added that paramedics were “absolutely exhausted and overworked,” receiving no support from their superiors.
The BC Coroners Service has stated that they will be carefully investigating the circumstances of each death in order to determine the role that the extreme heat may have played. Findings from these investigations will be used to “help prevent future deaths in similar circumstances.”
At the time of writing, the online petition has received over 7,670 signatures.
Daily Hive has reached out to the BCEHS for additional comment.