The total number of trips ambulances make in a year on P.E.I. has jumped from 11,000 in 2005 to 14,000.
'We're not aware of any abuse of the system.' — Richard Wedge, medical affairs director
Most of the increased use comes from seniors, said Health Minister Carolyn Bertram.
"In 2008, our government made a commitment to take away emergency fees for seniors in this province, so today when seniors call an ambulance for an emergency there is no fee," she said.
Medical affairs director Richard Wedge said another factor is more patients are being transferred to other hospitals to relieve bed pressures, especially at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown. But Wedge agrees most of the rising use comes from seniors, but he doesn't see any problem.
"We assume that if they called 911, they had a legitimate reason," he said.
Wedge believes dropping the $150 fee has likely saved lives.
" I think there were a number of folks who quite inappropriately were probably not calling the ambulance, and they were taking their own cars to the hospital," he said.
The increased use has been expensive. The province is getting a million dollars less from user-fees by not charging seniors. That's partly why the budget for ambulances has gone up 70 per cent, to $8.4 million, over the last five years.