Slashing ambulance fees a promise kept, Manitoba government says
Effective today, price of an ambulance ride will be capped at $250
The cost of an ambulance ride in Manitoba is now half the price it once was.
Premier Brian Pallister trumpeted his fulfillment of a election promise on Monday when he reannounced that ambulance fees will not exceed $250. The change takes effect immediately.
He made the pledge during the election campaign of 2016, when the maximum price was $500, the highest in Canada. The news of the reduction to $250 was first shared with the release of the provincial budget last month.
Pallister told reporters at the Manitoba Legislature how an elderly woman with severe chest pains walked herself to an emergency room in winter, while in another case, paramedics pleaded with a man exhibiting stroke symptoms to take an ambulance.
'They aren't imaginary'
"They aren't imaginary [stories]," he said, with two dozen caucus members around him. "They happened because our ambulance fees were allowed to rise … far too high, to the point where many Manitoba families were making choices that were very dangerous."
Connie Newman, executive director for the Manitoba Association of Senior Centres, said the investment is a crucial step toward ensuring equity in health care.
"When one takes time to think about 'How much is this going to cost?' or 'I'm not taking an ambulance — it costs too much,' valuable time is lost."
Manitoba Government and General Employees Union president Michelle Gawronsky said nobody would dispute that lowering ambulance costs is a good thing, but the province must bolster the number of paramedics on staff. A 2013 review concluded the province needs 400 paramedics in rural Manitoba, she said.
"It won't matter what the fees are if you don't have an ambulance available," Gawronsky said.
The province has committed funding to hire 95 full-time rural paramedics since taking office in 2016, the government said.
Partisan advertising promise unfulfilled
On the subject of campaign promises, Pallister was asked about his previous campaign pledge to give the auditor general the authority to review all advertising and dismiss any promotional materials that are considered partisan, which he has not acted on.
He said his government has spent less on advertising than their predecessor in every category, and will present conflict of interest legislation shortly that's "somewhat related" to his election promised.
Asked specifically about giving the auditor general veto powers over advertising campaigns, Pallister said "Our intention is to keep our promise."