Sunday, October 10, 2004

Better off taking the bus

Middlesex seeks cut of ambulance fees
MARISSA NELSON, Free Press Reporter  
2004-10-10 04:44:34  

Middlesex County politicians have asked the province to increase user fees for ambulances and hand over the cash to them. A person taken to hospital by ambulance in Ontario gets billed $45. Of that, $35 goes to the province and the rest goes to hospitals.

But municipalities, which don't get any of the money, have to bankroll more than half of the cost of the service.

In a letter he sent to Minister of Health George Smitherman, Middlesex Warden Ian Brebner called for a fee hike and for the money to be given to municipalities.

Increasing user fees will pay for improvements to the service and help ward off calls for ambulances in non-emergency cases, he said.

"So-called emergency calls increase every year. They've gone up 13 per cent this year alone," Brebner said.

"I see the value in making people think twice. If you need one, you'll still call, but if you're using it as a taxi, you'll think twice."

While the county council hasn't decided what the increase should be, it would have to be around $100 to have any effect, Brebner said.

Ontario's $45 fee is on the low-end of the scale, Brebner said, pointing out Calgary's fee is $319, and British Columbia's is $54 for the first 40 kilometres and 50 cents a kilometre after that.

Changing who gets user-fee revenue would help municipalities without digging into already stressed provincial coffers, he added.

"It is our council's opinion that municipalities across Ontario should be provided with 100 per cent of the land ambulance user-fee revenue." Brebner wrote.

Brebner said the only options without change are to increase taxes to pay for the service or let the response times slip -- neither of which are palatable.

Brebner and London Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco met Smitherman on Friday to pitch potential solutions to the ambulance problems.

While getting all of the user fees is ideal, DeCicco said it's more realistic to expect municipalities get a cut -- which would still be a step forward.

"There should be room for us to get a portion of the fees," she said.

DeCicco said the minister recognized changing where user-fee money goes may be something that can implemented quickly, but not overnight.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2004


Nathaniel said...

But.. but.. but.. that means only the rich could afford ambulance services!! $100.00 one must pay to go to the hospital in order to determine what one's chest pains are about??

That's discrimination against those who don't have credit cards for cabs, or own their own vehicles and instead have chosen to ride bikes to assist with pollution problems.. and of course, discrimination against those that don't drink and drive!!! This is just terrible!

Bring back private ambulance service! It's cheaper and more efficient. This public ambulance service does nothing but discriminate against those with a hundred bucks or so in their savings account. Shame shame shame.

Anonymous said...

I can see it all now. The family sitting around the thanksgiving turkey they got from the food bank and tiny Tim starts choking on a bone. They contemplate on whether spending the $100.00 on an ambulance or putting him in the wheel barrow to transport him to the hosptial. We don't even got that we care about our sick anymore in Canada. Does that make us Americans?

Honey Pot