Residents are fuming after requests for the city to plow Yale Road for a sick neighbour to get to hospital were not met for nearly eight hours, forcing them to call an ambulance.
The ordeal began Saturday morning as residents of 61702 Yale Rd. woke up to three feet of snow on their street.
Eagle Agecoutay, resident and caretaker at the property, had been feeling ill since Boxing Day.
He said he was having trouble breathing and Friday night had chills like he’d never felt before. Saturday morning he decided he needed to get into town to buy medication for his worsening condition.
“I couldn’t breathe. I had a lung infection. I didn’t know. I found that out last night when I was in hospital,” he said Sunday.
“My infection could have killed me if I was a smoker and all that, but they put me on a breather three times in the hospital.”
One of Agecoutay’s neighbours called the district around 9:30 a.m. Saturday asking for the street to be plowed. The answer from the city, according to another neighbour Derek Roberts, was plows would be there soon.
The neighbour called a second time about an hour later and received the same answer.
By 1 p.m. a plow had not arrived and Roberts decided to phone the district. He said the official on the other line told him the plows would be there in an hour or two.
“I explained the situation. He goes, ‘Does he need an ambulance?’ I’m like, ‘It’s not an emergency – he’s not dying here – but he’s got to get to a hospital soon,’ ” Roberts said.
“He said they were clearing the main routes and they’d get to us when they got to us and if I wanted the plow to come sooner I’d have to phone an ambulance.”
By 5 p.m. the neighbours decided to call an ambulance, as it was getting darker and Agecoutay was feeling worse.
The ambulance arrived and 15 minutes later a snow plow arrived, Roberts said. Crews spent 30 minutes plowing the street, then the ambulance was able to get through to Agecoutay’s residence.
“I feel bad for calling the ambulance. It wasn’t an emergency like he’s having a heart attack or something. I don’t want to use resources,” Roberts said.
“We could have remedied this if the (dispatcher) had just been reasonable.”
Agecoutay said the job was a simple one – less than half a kilometre of straight road to plow – and he is disappointed and saddened by the official response.
“It’s unusual, but it shouldn’t happen, especially for people that are sick,” he said.
“It’s pretty sad. You know, in this day and age, it’s sad that we have the technology but it’s the morals behind it. Where’s the effort?”
He added a medical incident happened last year at Canna Farms on the same stretch of road. The person had to be carried by EMS workers the half-kilometre stretch to where the road was plowed.
John Fortoloczky, chief administrative officer with the District of Hope, stated in an email that the city sets snow removal priorities after careful consideration by council and staff.
“Clearly no municipality has the ability to be everywhere at all times,” he stated.
“These priorities are needed to best address the public safety and mobility interests of the community with the limited equipment available.”
He added staff get numerous calls for service outside the priority areas during snowstorms.
When it comes to medical issues, the district relies on emergency services to make the call on whether snow plows need to be diverted.
“Our staff are not qualified to evaluate and rank the various potential medical and other concerns against each other,” Fortoloczky said. “In this case, as per the emergency protocol, the process worked and the individual received the treatment required. We are all relieved and wish the individual a speedy and complete recovery.”
Agecoutay and Roberts stressed they don’t normally call the city during the winter, but this time it was necessary.
“Every time it snows here, basically we’re trapped for a day or two. And we don’t phone the city; we accept it that that’s part of life living in a rural area,” Roberts said.
“But we did phone the city because this was an unusual situation. We had to get to a hospital and the response was outrageous.”
Roberts would like to see the street put onto a regular rotation of being cleared as many senior citizens and the employer Canna Farms are on the street.
Fortoloczky stated residents who want changes to the snow removal policy or priorities should come to district hall, where their feedback will be recorded.
He added district staff track public concerns during storms and bring them to council if they feel changes are needed.