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This article was published 22/6/2010 (2919 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The city should be more forthcoming in explaining exactly what charges residents are in for when an emergency response vehicle pulls up to their doorstep, says a Brandon resident who was shocked by her hefty ambulance bill.
Heather Williams had to be rushed to the Brandon Regional Health Centre recently after suffering a pair of slipped discs in her back, which ultimately required surgery and a 10-day stay in hospital.
She says she was stunned to return home after her hospital stay to find a bill from the city for $624 — the result of a $389 ambulance trip fee and a $235 charge for medical services and supplies administered to her in the ambulance.
While Williams said she understood that, as a local resident, she would be charged a flat rate for the ambulance ride, she was not at all aware she would be charged for the oxygen, IV and morphine administered to her during her five-minute trip.
"I had no idea that I was going to be responsible for that," she said. "Had I known that, I would have said, 'No thank you, just take me to the hospital.' I think they need to inform residents that that is a policy of theirs."
Patients who are in non-critical situations should be told of the potential for extra charges while in the back of an ambulance, she suggested, adding that all information about ambulance fees — including standard charges for consumables — should be readily available on the city's fire and emergency services website.
"I found that information (for other cities) all over Canada on their emergency services website. I think it's only fair we get this posted."
Currently, ambulance fees can be found on Page 20 of the city's 28-page fee schedule, downloadable from brandon.ca.
City manager Brian MacRae says administration will look at posting the ambulance fees in a more prominent way on either the city's homepage or its fire and emergency services website.
But he defends the city's fees as necessary, considering the high quality of care administered by Brandon's emergency responders.
"Ambulance service is provided under a contractual arrangement with the Brandon Regional Health Authority and that arrangement is based on a provincial allocation wherein roughly 50 per cent of the cost of the service covered by billings directly to patients ... the formula is as simple as passing on roughly 50 per cent of the cost of the service to the patients," he said.
"The price — while certainly high and I understand that — is roughly middle of the road in the context of the cost of ambulance service in the province of Manitoba."
Williams has paid the ambulance portion of the bill, but maintains she will not pay the additional service charges and fully expects to face legal action.
In response, MacRae would only say that city policy is to pursue payment and they will work to resolve the issue.