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How long is too long to wait for an ambulance on the Island of Montreal?


When you call 911 for an ambulance, you expect it to arrive quickly. But one former paramedic says timing could depend on where you are on the island.

Data gathered by Hal Newman, the founder of primary healthcare blog The Last Ambulance, suggests that if you lived on the West Island in 2022, you waited an average of 13 minutes for a priority-one call. For calls to downtown, patients waited for 10 minutes.

"A priority-one patient who could be critically ill or injured (faced) a 13 minute wait," said Newman. "Thirteen minutes -- that's a long time." 

Urgences-Sante says that while the numbers may be concerning on the surface, it's important to look at the entire emergency response plan. It says that, in high priority cases, its response always includes a first responder who should take around eight minutes to arrive anywhere on the island.

"They are able to give you what you need in terms of care within the first few minutes of the life threatening situation,” said Chantal Comeau, spokesperson for Urgences-Sante. “And of course, every call also needs an ambulance to be dispatched.”

But Newman says a paramedic, who has more specialized training than a first-responder, should be available to take over in less time.

"(A) priority-one emergency would be someone in respiratory distress, someone who has signs and symptoms of a heart attack, someone who's been involved in a car accident and has visible trauma," said Newman.

Patients' rights advocate Paul Brunet says better access to home care could decrease wait times.

"We've suggested, like they do in Verdun, to go and meet the patients at home,” he said. “Guess what? We save hospitalizations, we save ambulance transportation, we save beds. What are we waiting for?”

Urgences-Sante says its overall wait times have decreased in recent months, and that it's always working to cut them down even more.

In the meantime, Newman is urging West Islanders to contact their elected officials.

"If we were to do this on a proactive basis, we'd go to our elected reps and say, ‘Hey, I live on the West Island. I pay taxes. I am part of Metro Montreal, why do I have a 13 minute response time?’" Top Stories

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