Majority of Manitoba heart and stroke patients not calling ambulance: report

WINNIPEG —; Every second counts when a person is having a heart attack or stroke. A minute can make all the difference when it comes to a patient’s care.

However, when it comes to getting that care, too few people are calling 911 to have an ambulance help during those critical moments.

RELATED: Advanced heart attack response available to all Winnipeg paramedics

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It was 17 years ago at the age of 33 that Heather Purvis woke up to a strange headache and weakness in her right side. She was suffering a stroke but didn’t know it right away.

“I probably wasted 20 minutes just deciding whether this was something serious enough,” said Purvis.

She finally called 911 and said she’s certain that’s what helped save her life.

“It’s very frightening,” she said. “It’s more frightening in hindsight looking back. What would have happened if I hadn’t dialed 911… if I hadn’t contacted emergency services.  If I had have gone and had my husband drive me, what would have happened?”

A new report released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information shows more and more Manitobans are opting to drive to the hospital instead of calling an ambulance.

“Sometimes I think I’d rather go in a car or a taxi even,” said one woman who spoke to Global News. “Sometimes there’s a long waiting period for an ambulance to come.”

In Manitoba, 51 per cent of patients who had a stroke showed up at the hospital in an ambulance in 2014-2015.

Only 33 per cent of heart attack patients took an ambulance. Both those numbers are the worst among all provinces and well below the Canadian average.

“A lot of times the ambulance wait times feel like it takes a long time,” said MGEU president Michelle Gawronsky. “The reality is it isn’t a long time. It just feels like it.”

The report found that Canada-wide, lower-income people were slightly more likely to use an ambulance than higher-income people. It also found that younger people were less likely to arrive with flashing lights and sirens.

In Manitoba, calling an ambulance can cost more than $500 but the Progressive Conservatives have said they will cut those prices in half by the end of their first term in office.

Health professionals are reminding Manitobans there are a number of reasons why it is always best to call 911, including the lifesaving treatment they can offer before you get to the hospital.

“There’s a lot of different medications we can give you inside your home,” said Ryan Woiden, Local 911 President, Winnipeg Paramedics. “Along with consulting with a cardiology team while you are inside your home, the team gets the ball rolling a lot quicker before it gets you triaged at an ER department.”

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