Ornge Air Ambulance ordered to bill all out-of-province patients
Kayla Goodfield, CTV News Toronto
Published Monday, May 8, 2017 6:36PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, May 9, 2017 10:17AM EDT
Out-of-province patients will be left with hefty bills during medical crises after the Ontario government has ordered Ornge Air Ambulance to resume regular payments for all services.
CTV News Toronto has learned that following the dismissal of invoices for non-Ontarian patients, the air ambulance service must return to handing out those large bills that can cost thousands of dollars.
The initial decision to lift the steep payments came after an Alberta woman went into premature labour while visiting Ontario in the summer of 2015.
Amy Savill suddenly went into labour two months before her expected due date while on vacation in northern Ontario with her family.
She initially went to a hospital in Timmins, Ont. but was told that the staff there were not equipped to proceed with births under 32 weeks.
An air ambulance was then arranged to take her to a hospital in Sudbury, which was a four hour car drive away.
During this time, Savill had to consent to paying for the cost of the air ambulance, which ended up costing her between $10,000 and $30,000.
At Queen’s Park, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath said people in that state should not have to face that kind of decision.
“It’s ridiculous to expect people who are in a medical crisis to pull out a credit card to pay for their transportation,” she said.
No more free rides
Early this year, management of Ornge Air Ambulance decided to stop handing out these bills to out-of-province patients. Instead Ontario’s air ambulance service would ask them for a valid health card or proof of private insurance in lieu of payment.
But, since then Ontairo’s Ministry of Health has ordered Ornge to end this method and return to normally charging those who are being helped from out of province.
Ontario’s Health Minister Eric Hoskins said this will be the rule moving forward, but each case will be looked at separately.
“If they have a concern about ability to pay – if that individual, non-Ontarian perhaps does not have the appropriate insurance then they have the ability to reduce or waive these costs,” Hoskins said.
Ontario, Alberta government split tab
In the case of Savill, the governments of Ontario and Alberta agreed to split the cost of the air ambulance bill.
Alberta’s Ministry of Health confirmed in August 2015 that the two provinces came to an agreement so the new mother would not have to pay the thousands of dollars.
This decision came shortly after strangers were donating thousands of dollars to help Savill and her family to help cover the cost.
At the time, Hoskins said Savill’s case highlighted some of the “challenges” Canadians face in health care coverage as they travel across the country.
Ornge provides service to approximately 160 patients each year and of those patients the average cost per invoice is between $3,000 and $4,000, which added up to about $550,000 last year.
With files from CTV News Toronto’s Paul Bliss and The Canadian Press