Manitoba’s costly ambulances hurt seniors

Emergency services to the hospital are the most expensive in Canada. The consequences can be dire for low-income seniors.

Ambulance rides to the hospital in Winnipeg cost $512, in rural Manitoba cost is $818

Seniors' advocate calls high ambulance fees in Manitoba a barrier to emergency healthcare. (CBC)

I live in Manitoba. Safety and security is on the minds of all of us, even more so as we age. For some of us, the security that comes with family is not possible. Personally, I live in Winnipeg and my daughter is in Calgary. For some of my retired friends, their family is on another continent. Hardly close enough to call for a ride to the emergency room.

Statistics Canada projects that by 2030, 23.6 per cent of Canadians will be over the age of 65. Compare that with 15.3 per cent in 2013. As one ages they may suffer from more health issues. Our need for ambulance services will only go up.

It takes an entire village to look after one another. Throughout the province the “Age Friendly” initiative is gaining momentum-- safety is one of its pillars. If it is good for an 80-year-old, it is good for a family with young children. We all may need appropriate ambulance service at some point in our lives.

Last winter, I heard of an older adult who walked to the hospital, because she could not afford the cost of an ambulance in Winnipeg; she has no debt and wants no debt.

This winter an older adult was enjoying the afternoon at a Manitoba active living centre when she went into medical distress. The staff want to call an ambulance, but she refused. She told staff she could not pay for it.

I personally know of several seniors who do not have the money for an ambulance nor family who can assist them in a medical emergency. When I hear of a friend not wanting an ambulance called when he or she is in crisis, I worry.

These situations exist in Winnipeg.

I know there is a cost to everything. Nothing is free. We pay property taxes, income tax, PST, GST. Because we pay taxes, we have access to health care, to firefighters, to garbage pick-up. What about affordable ambulance service for all?

We have to examine our priorities.

Connie Newman is a retired school principal, 66 years old, living in Winnipeg. She is the executive director of the Manitoba Association of Senior Centres.


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