What started out as a relaxed Friday evening with pizza and a movie for Airdronian Crystal Roach, her husband, and their 17-year-old daughter, Desirea, ended in the Peter Lougheed Hospital after being turned away from Airdrie's Urgent Care Centre on August 5.
That evening, Desirea, who had just gotten up to help herself to seconds of supper, bumped into the coffee table and fell to the ground.
"It was just a freak accident. I came over to help her up and I looked down and her kneecap is now on the side of her knee," Roach said. "My stomach dropped, and I just covered her knee, so she wouldn't see it and held her in place. I looked at my husband and said, ‘call 9-1-1.’"
Roach's husband was somewhat confused, offering that he would drive his daughter to Urgent Care if she was hurt, rather than calling an ambulance.
"I opened my hands so he could see her knee and he went and called 9-1-1 right away."
The call to 9-1-1 was placed at approximately 6:49 P.M. that evening. It would take an ambulance 30 minutes to show up.
When she was asked why she didn't attempt to transport her daughter herself to Airdrie's Urgent Care, Roach said that the amount of pain her daughter was in was excruciating and she feared moving her would only make things worse. Roach noted that she is also the mother to a son who has gone through chemotherapy, and even going through all that, she never once called an ambulance.
"We only called because there was absolutely no other way," she said. "I was literally sitting on the floor supporting her leg because she's crying and screaming; she's shaking and I'm trying to just keep her in one position because I've never dealt with this before."
The paramedics that attended to Roach's daughter informed her mother that they had commuted from the Rockyview General Hospital.
"Those 30 minutes feel like a lifetime when you're listening to your child cry and scream for help and ask you why you're not helping."
Once the paramedics arrived, they administered Fentanyl to Desirea as the pain was too much to bear.
"They [the paramedics] were absolute rock stars. They came in, apologizing profusely, that it took that long for someone to get to her. They couldn't even get her legs straight; it was so mangled. They had to put a board under her to try to get her out. It actually took all five of us to be able to maneuver around our house and from where she was to get safely out of the house."
As the paramedics were working to get Desirea into the ambulance, Roach said that dispatch informed the paramedics that her daughter would be transported to Airdrie's Urgent Care, which surprised even Roach herself.
"[Before that] I was reassuring her that we're just going to go to the hospital because that's just what I assumed. Again, I've never dealt with a dislocated knee. So, I didn't realize it was something that the urgent care could deal with."
Roach immediately drove to Urgent Care, waiting for the ambulance to arrive. She said she arrived prior to 8 P.M. and by the time the ambulance arrived with her daughter, it was 8:02 P.M.
Previously, Alberta Health Services stated that Airdrie's Urgent Care would be temporarily closed overnight on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings from 10 p.m. until 7 a.m. the following mornings for approximately eight weeks due to gaps in physician coverage.
"New patients will not be admitted after 8 p.m. and those remaining in the department at that time will be treated and discharged according to their needs. Nursing staff will remain in the UCC overnight to assess and triage any walk-in patients who are present during the temporary closures."
Roach said that when she arrived another ambulance was already there and a paramedic from that ambulance urged her to go in and make sure her daughter would be admitted.
"Sure enough, the doors were locked and I was trying to open them. I don't know who it was, but somebody opened the door and let me in. One of our paramedics that was with my daughter was by my side at that point and so we walked right up to the triage."
The nurses who were present informed Roach and the paramedic that they were closed. Eventually, a doctor came to speak to Roach. After a lengthy discussion, the physician relented and told the nurses to admit Desirea.
"The nurse looked at him and said, 'No, it's actually against AHS policy to take anybody past eight o'clock, because then we get in trouble for prioritizing patients. Why would we take her but not somebody else?'"
The paramedics asked for clarification and after no clear answer, they turned around.
"Then they dispatched us to the Peter Lougheed Centre, which is a 25-minute drive."
Alberta Health Services was asked to provide a comment following the incident. In a written statement they said that on Friday, August 5, there was a high number of patients in the urgent care Centre at 8 P.M., the current closing time.
"An ambulance that arrived just after 8 p.m. that evening was redirected to a nearby emergency department. This was a medical decision made following a discussion with the facility physician and the EMS crew. All patients are seen according to the urgency of their health condition, with the sickest patients being seen first. On Friday, patients in the Airdrie Urgent Care Centre continued to be treated until after midnight."
Roach said that while she was livid at what had transpired at Airdrie's Urgent Care Centre, another thought crossed her mind.
"[I kept thinking] we just tied up another ambulance. We are now at least another couple hours [with this] ambulance [and crew] because they don't leave her side until the doctor has seen her," she said. "[If] the doctor and the nurses just took the time to say, 'we couldn't help you.' If that was their excuse, I would have accepted that just fine. But it was the fact that they stood there in front of me, while I'm begging them to take her and [they] refused because of policy. That's what really got under my skin."
She added that it was close to 10 P.M. before her daughter was seen by a doctor at Peter Lougheed.
While Desirea did have her knee placed back into position, the entire ordeal left her mother terrified.
"I just hope that people see that it [may come down] to somebody losing their life and not getting help in time. Like I said, had another accident happened that evening, we just tied up an ambulance, that could have saved somebody's life," Roach said. "This really just really opened my eyes. Having other kids, one that is very medically fragile; it terrifies me that if something happens to him, there's no help here. He may not have as much time to wait as the next person."
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