For some people in Saskatchewan, taking an ambulance – especially if it’s between health facilities – can take a big bite out of their wallet.
In Question Period on Monday, the NDP’s health critic, Vicki Mowat, raised the issue of ambulance fees. She said according to the health minister’s briefing notes, a person who needs a transfer from a health facility in Nipawin to one in Saskatoon would have to pay more than $1,500.
Speaking to media later, Mowat said Saskatchewan is the only jurisdiction in Canada that charges patients directly for transfers between health service facilities.
“Think about the fact that it’s not the patient that’s making that call, it’s the physician that’s making the call about transferring.”
Mowat wants the province to make some changes.
“Not only do we have very high fees and a lot of variances in terms of cost, but they’re also disproportionately hurting the rural areas because they’re going to pay more for their ambulance fees.”
According to Health Minister Jim Reiter, 87 per cent of ambulance fees in the province are paid for by some level of government – and it bumps up to 95 per cent for air ambulance. He also mentioned that fees are capped for seniors and there are plans to help low-income patients.
“It would be nice if we could just cover absolutely everything, but there’s limited dollars.”
Reiter said he’s given to understand that when it comes to extremely high fees, like the example of the Nipawin to Saskatoon transfer, the ambulance company can arrange for term payments with the patient.
“You know, we review this every year at budget time, we try to find a reasonable compromise,” said Reiter
Mowat pointed to Manitoba, which has reduced ambulance fees by 35 per cent over the past two years, whereas the Saskatchewan government did consultations on this issues in July 2017 but haven’t released the results.
Reiter said the province has been working with provincial ambulance providers and provincial strategy is expected in the spring.