It took an average of 15 minutes for emergency services to get to patients in Princeton, around 43 minutes for Coalmont and Tulameen and 42 minutes for Hedley, according to 2010/2011 data provided to the Spotlight from BC Ambulance Services.
Emergency services – which can include ambulances or helicopters – respond to patients whose lives are in danger around three minutes faster than those whose conditions are not as bad.
After an ambulance arrives on scene, most patients would be transported to a hospital – either Princeton Hospital or another depending on their condition.
If an emergency happened when the Princeton Hospital was closed. patients would have to be transported to another hospital, such as the one in Penticton.
It takes emergency services in this area typically longer to reach patients than it takes an average person to dive the distance.
There are many reasons for the longer response time, said BC Ambulance spokeswoman Kelsey Carwithen.
“The time of the year can be a factor. Weather issues are probably number one,” she said.
The closest available ambulance is dispatched to a location, so ambulances aren’t necessarily coming from Princeton, she said.
Princeton residents started a petition to get 24/7 emergency department service after they became worried about the amount of time it would take for patients to be treated when the hospital undergoes scheduled closures May 1. Interior Health announced on April 2 that the Princeton Hospital would be closed from midnight to 8 a.m. Monday to Thursday.
More than 1,000 people have now signed the petition that is placed in businesses throughout Princeton and surrounding communities.
The petition’s organizer Nienke Klaver hopes more than 2,000 people will add their signatures.
Once Klaver has enough signatures, she will be giving the petition to Princeton town council, the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen and the Minister of Health.
Harry Lali, MLA for Fraser-Nicola, met with residents on April 12 to discuss the hospital emergency room closures. The key to attracting doctors to small communities like Princeton is by training them in rural medicine, Lali said at the meeting.
“Even though British Columbia as a whole does not have a shortage of doctors, there is a shortage of doctors in certain communities, most of them rural, he said.