New Brunswick

Ambulance N.B. reports sharp drop in calls

The introduction of ambulance fees is being credited partly for a sharp drop in the number of calls Ambulance New Brunswick is receiving for assistance.

The introduction of ambulance fees is being credited partly for a sharp drop in the number of calls Ambulance New Brunswick is receiving for assistance.

Alan Stephen, the chief executive officer of Ambulance New Brunswick, said there was a drop of 15,000 people taking ambulances between April 2009 and March 2010.

Stephen said he believes the drop in calls is in part linked to fees charged. In July of 2009, the former Liberal government put a $130 charge on an ambulance ride to hospital.

Still, Stephen said he is hearing no complaints about ambulance service from provincial emergency rooms.

"We've not heard from the regional health authorities that they're seeing any major change of people arriving in taxies or cars that should have arrived by ambulance," Stephen said.

Dr. Michael Howell said the imposition of the ambulance fee does not seem to be affecting patient care at the Saint John Regional Hospital.

"It's a hard question to answer because, of course, the ones we see arriving by ambulance likely should be taking the ambulance, tracking the ones that should have and didn't is far more difficult," Howell said.

"But as of yet we haven't noticed a dramatic shift in people's care as a result of that, no."

Ambulance New Brunswick has charged at least $5 million in fees in the past 16 months, collecting nearly half that money for the provincial government.

Premier David Alward promised during the election campaign that his Progressive Conservatives would cancel the $130 fee.

Stephen said his company is working with the provincial government on how to manage the old call volumes if fees are dropped.

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