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Injured B.C. woman told to call 911 to get from hospital parking lot to emergency door

When Britany Spavin hurt her foot after falling down a flight of stairs, she drove to a nearby hospital to get help.

That was the easy part. 

It was getting from the hospital parking lot to the emergency room that was hard. 

Spavin made the 45-minute drive on Sunday from her home in Salmo to the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital in Trail, located in the West Kootenay region of the B.C. Interior. 

The hospital is currently undergoing $58 million in upgrades. Access to Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital was changed on Nov. 25 to a temporary covered walkway that runs around the construction zone.

The trek from the parking lot to the emergency room door was more than Spavin and her injured foot could handle.

When she called hospital reception to ask if she could park in a vacant area close to the doors, she was told she could not “under any circumstances.”

When Spavin explained that she was too injured to get from the regular parking lot to the front doors, especially due to all the surrounding construction, the receptionist suggested she call 911 and get an ambulance. 

“I was like … but I’m already in the parking lot of the hospital …” Spavin told Sarah Penton, host of Radio West

“It just kind of rubbed me the wrong way … it made me feel a little odd that I would be required to call in such a needed service when I was already at the hospital. It just seemed like a really extreme option for what I was asking for.”

A construction site map of Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital. (KBRH )

Spavin ended up parking illegally in the handicapped parking area because it was closer to the door than the regular parking.

She says it took her 15 minutes to walk through a “maze” of construction from her car to the front door of the emergency department. 

A shuttle vehicle is available to drive anyone who needs assistance from the parking lot to the hospital doors but only on week days.

Spavin spent four hours at the hospital and was ultimately not able to see a doctor or have X-rays taken. She is now seeking treatment at a hospital in Nelson, B.C., instead of Trail.

Interior Health response

Jane Cusden, director of clinical operations with Interior Health, says paramedics have occasionally been called to get people from the Trail hospital parking lot to the door. But it is not a common option. 

“It’s very difficult to speak to a specific situation. I would say that this is a pretty unusual case. We’re really sorry for this patient’s experience,” Cusdan said. 

The B.C. Ambulance station is located at the back of the hospital parking lot, 250 metres from hospital doors. 

The Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital main parking lot. (Kat Enns)

Cusdan says normally the emergency department would see if someone would be able to assist in a situation like Spavin’s. But Sunday was a particularly busy day in emergency. 

Cusdan says Interior Health is aware that accessing the Trail hospital has been an issue. 

“It’s been challenging for patients and visitors to access the hospital, especially those with mobility challenges, she said. 

“We obviously will review this case and see what improvements we can make to the messaging that the [reception] switchboard gives to people.” 

Interior Health says external upgrades to the hospital are expected to be completed by late fall 2020.

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