When it comes to trauma, the difference between life and death can be a matter of seconds.
And while the system isn’t perfect, Greater Victoria residents can find comfort in knowing they’ve got the fastest average ambulance response times in B.C.
According to the latest data from the B.C. Ambulance Service, ambulances averaged a response time of 7:26 in Victoria last year, the fastest in the province and a far cry from the provincial median of 15 minutes.
“We have a saying that time is brain, or time is muscle, meaning every minute gives you an opportunity to save those particular tissues,” said Dr. Chris Morrow, site chief for emergency medicine for the South Island at Island Health.
Morrow and other emergency room doctors liaise with the roughly 200 paramedics and 15 ambulances that cover Sooke to Sidney in an attempt to shave crucial seconds off hospital arrival and wait times each year.
“There are a number of critical conditions in which time will save lives, like severe allergic reactions, acute stroke and acute heart attack,” Morrow said.
The average 30-45 minutes it takes for non-trauma patients to move from ambulance to emergency rooms is also important in maintaining fast local response times, said Grant Brilz, Greater Victoria district manager with the B.C. Ambulance Service.
“That allows us to move ambulances back on to the streets, where they’re available for other calls, which then reduces the response times to those subsequent calls,” Brilz said.
B.C. ambulances aren’t restricted by municipal boundaries, which allows greater flexibility to move services around the region as patient demand requires, he added.
Peak ambulance times usually occur at 11 a.m. and in the early afternoon, when patient transfers between hospitals are in full swing.
The Canadian benchmark for Code 3, or lights-and-siren ambulance response times is about nine minutes.
Saanich and Esquimalt ambulances clocked in at 8:17 and 8:32 respectively last year, while Oak Bay responses averaged 9:20 from dispatch to arrival.
The B.C. Ambulance Service responded to more than 400,000 events last year; more than half of those were Code 3 calls.