POLITICS

NDP continues to criticize ambulance fees, calls for hospital transfer coverage

03/10/2015 06:34 EDT | Updated 05/10/2015 05:59 EDT
REGINA - Saskatchewan's Opposition continues to criticize the government for its ambulance fee system and is calling for full coverage of hospital transfers.

NDP Leader Cam Broten said Tuesday that he also wants to see the mileage charge on ambulance trips axed.

An ambulance pickup costs a base fee of $245 or $325, depending on the region. The higher fee applies to regions where there is 24-hour access to advanced paramedic coverage on emergency calls.

An additional mileage fee of $2.30 per kilometre is standard across the province.

Broten said Saskatchewan is the only province to charge for ambulance transfers between hospitals and it's one of two provinces, along with Quebec, that doesn't have a capped rate.

"Families should not have to be thinking, 'can I afford the bill?,'" he said. "That should not be part of the equation."

Last week the Opposition raised the case of Sara Bucsis-Gunn, who said she wasn't prepared for the more than $7,000 in bills she received for her daughter's trips to hospital.

Leandra, who was seven years old when she died in April 2013, required emergency ambulance trips because of seizures related to a congenital medical condition. She also needed transfers between a hospital in Regina, where her family lived, and a Saskatoon facility.

"The fees that this government has increased are a huge burden ... and present a barrier to care," Broten said.

Greg Ottenbreit, who is the minister responsible for rural and remote health, said the government plans to review the interest rates on ambulance bills but won't be making any immediate changes to the fee structure.

He added that health-care funding is a matter of priorities.

"When we do look at the overall health-care budget, over $5 billion, we have to set those priorities," he said.