Loading articles...

'That's not an emergency response': Man outraged after grandmother left on floor for an hour after 911 call

Last Updated Dec 7, 2021 at 6:11 am MDT

Another alarm being sounded over the dire situation around Alberta ambulances.

On Sunday, the shortages left a 94-year-old Calgary woman on the floor for an hour while EMS responded.

“To picture her lying on tiles waiting for an hour for someone to get her is heartbreaking,” said Marcello Di Cintio, the grandson of the woman.

“I think the first emotion is sadness then fury comes soon afterwards.”

Di Cintio learned about what had happened and took to Twitter to question Alberta Health Services (AHS) about the call.

The tweet even caught the eye of former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi.

“It’s time to admit that [AHS EMS] is terribly broken and that the decision to remove local dispatch must be reversed. Firefighters could have been there in minutes and may have been able to help,” Nenshi said.

When it happened – dispatchers told the family not to move her or feed her and that an ambulance was on the way.

But it was about an hour before it arrived.

“An hour long, that’s not an emergency response. For any kind of injury or medical situation,” said Di Cintio.

The family says when the paramedics did get there – they were wonderful.

“I know that the people who got there when they did, did everything they could,” said Rory Gill, the president of the Alberta division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

“And the time it took was not their fault, they had to prioritize, they had to work through other issues, and I believe that person, I’m sure, got the very best of care. But we’ve got to stop having stories like this.”

Over the weekend, EMS staff reported 11 red alerts – meaning no ambulances were available for a stretch in 11 communities. Twice in both Calgary and Edmonton.


Gill says the EMS staffing shortage needs to be addressed immediately.

In the medium to long term, he says training, recruitment, and support is key.

“I think they’re being taken advantage of to a certain extent because of their selflessness and dedication. They’re staying there for us and our government, through us, can be there for them.”

In a statement to CityNews, AHS acknowledged the response was longer than it should’ve been, and said, in part:

“The AHS EMS response system is designed to prioritize calls according to the severity of the medical condition or injury described by a caller at the time of a 911 call. We are reviewing this call and have reached out directly to the family to discuss their concerns.

“EMS is continuing to see an unprecedented increase in emergency calls over the last several months, due to several combined factors including the COVID-19 pandemic, opioid concerns and emergency calls related to people returning to normal levels of activity.

“All call types have increased and staff illness and fatigue are also contributing to challenges in the EMS system. We are ensuring that the most critical patients are prioritized for receiving immediate care.”

It’s a concept that Di Cintio says is mindboggling.

“The fact that we live in a city, in a region of 1.5 million people and there’s no ambulances available during several periods that day and during the weekend, I can’t even wrap my head around that.”