It was just a short ride in an ambulance from Oakville Trafalgar hospital back to Norma Myles’s nursing home, but the quick jaunt came with a bill for $220.
The hospital eventually chose to waive the fee but the elderly woman's family told CTV News Toronto they're upset they were given the bill to begin with.
“How can they warrant charging a senior on a subsidized income a $220 ambulance ride?,” her sister Sandra Myles told CTV News Toronto.
“And that ride, was less than one-kilometre.”
Myles went to the hospital last month after she fell out of her bed. A few weeks after she got back, she was hit with the bill.
Ambulance service in Ontario is covered under OHIP and all patients have to pay is a co-payment fee of $45, however if the ambulance service is deemed medically unnecessary, patients get slapped with a bill of up to $240. Myles’s daughter Audrey Gates thought her mother’s use of an ambulance to get her home was necessary because she had a catheter in at the time and was not stable on her feet yet.
Health minister Dr. Eric Hoskins, told CTV News Toronto that the hospitals pocket these fees and the high cost is meant to deter people from using ambulances like “a taxi service to get them to hospitals.”
Gates said she was expecting a bill, just not one of this magnitude.
“After she pays her monthly invoice for the home, she's only got maybe $200-300 dollars left...and this is $220...it doesn't leave her much,” said Gates.
Hoskins said hospitals can waive these fees if they feel it’s unaffordable for the patient.
“I hope that hospitals would look at the socio-economic situation of the individual patients that utilize ambulance services,” Hoskins said, adding that the financial situation of caregivers of those patients should also be considered.
After speaking with Myles, the hospital did indeed choose to waive the entire fee.
But NDP Leader Andrea Horwath believes this fee shouldn’t even exist in the first place.
“It’s a very disturbing idea that someone who has fallen and hurt themselves in their long-term care center suddenly then gets a bill from the ambulance after being taken to the hospital,” Horwath said.
“ I think people should be able to have hospital system available to them and not have to dive into their pocket to pull out their credit card to pay for an ambulance after they’ve had an injury. It’s not right, it’s something that I don’t see how in Ontario we can have that situation.”