Choosing not to call 911 is a reasonable option for too many Manitobans.
Two thirds of heart attack victims and about half of those who suffered a stroke in this province didn’t get to the hospital by ambulance in 2014/2015. For many, it simply costs too much – the $500 to $700 bill is prohibitive.
The Canadian Institute for Health Information report places Manitoba at the bottom of the list. It’s embarrassing. Despite years of education by both the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service, people still drive to the emergency room.
The Progressive Conservative government has promised to reduce the fee but there’s been no announcement yet. Two years ago we did a program on the issue with City of Winnipeg officials acknowledging they have elderly clients who owe thousands of dollars in ambulance fees to the city. They pay $50 per month. Those folks are not going to call 911.
The City has a successful community paramedic program that targets those who call 911 on a frequent basis. It has the benefit of freeing up ambulances and emergency rooms while getting these folks off the billing list. Still, it’s not enough. The City hopes to expand the program.
Meanwhile, we are waiting for governments to act to reduce those fees. It can’t happen fast enough.