New Brunswick

Ambulance fees decried by N.B. seniors group

A senior citizens advocacy group says that bringing back ambulance fees discriminates against low-income seniors.

A senior citizens advocacy group says that bringing back ambulance fees discriminates against low-income seniors.

Roger Smith, the president of the New Brunswick Seniors Federation, said seniors with low-incomes won't be able to afford an ambulance and they need the service more than other groups.

"It makes the seniors think twice about calling and it may impact what their medical condition is and it has the potential to be a life-or-death situation," Smith said.

The New Brunswick government announced in its March budget that it would start charging for ambulance fees again.

The fees were taken off in 2004 and since that time the number of ambulance calls increased by about 50 per cent. Former Health Minister Michael Murphy argued when the reintroduction of the fees was announced that too many people in the province were using the free service when they didn't need it.

The $130.60 fee took effect on Wednesday.

It is expected that charging people to take the ambulance will raise roughly $6 million in revenue for the province, which is facing a $740-million deficit this year.

Sophie Cormier-Lalonde, a spokeswoman for Ambulance New Brunswick, said that some people on social assistance and in nursing homes won't have to pay for the service.

Others, she said, will be able to appeal to the province to have their fees covered.

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