Ambulance services should be integrated into Canada's Health Act, group says

The president of the Paramedic Association of Canada says no one should have to pay a large fee for an ambulance ride.

Fees much higher for people who use emergency services by air and land out-of-province

Alberta's Amy Savill faces a bill for up to $30,000 after her water broke while she was on holiday in Ontario and she was flown by air ambulance to a hospital in Sudbury. (Canadian Press)

The president of the Paramedic Association of Canada says no one should have to pay a large fee for an ambulance ride.

"Ultimately, we'd like to see paramedic or ambulance services — whether that be land, air or community — be integrated and be part of the Canada Health Act and therefore it would fall under the same common principles that the rest of the health-care system does — that it's universal and that it's equitable," Chris Hood said.

That's not the case right now, which is why an Alberta mother is on the hook for a hefty air ambulance bill after she went into labour in Ontario two months early. Amy Savill faces a bill of about $30,000 after her water broke while she was on holiday in Ontario and was flown by air ambulance to a hospital in Sudbury.

Hood said because each province uses its own tax dollars to fund ambulance services, Canadians must pay for emergency transportation no matter where they live.  

However, your bill could be significantly higher if you call an ambulance while you're visiting another province because you're paying the actual cost — while residents pay a heavily subsidized fee. 

"The public is not aware of this. It's really not well documented, not well understood and people think like any other part of the health-care system that if you're a Canadian, that you're covered and that's not the case," said Hood.

He said it's also a huge burden on the elderly and those on a fixed income.

"It has actually deterred people from calling ambulances," he said.

Some private and provincially funded ambulance services actually use collection agencies to deal with people who don't pay, Hood said.

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