Robin Milne had a heart attack at his Manitoba home and was rushed to the nearest hospital in Roseau, Minn., part of a long standing, but little known agreement with the province called the Altru Agreement. He ended up stuck with a hospital bill of more than more than $118,000 (CAN).
Robin Milne is thankful to be alive, but saving his life came at cost – a $118,000 price tag he and his family are now on the hook for.
In October, Milne started having chest pains while working on his home in Sprague, a small town near the U.S. border in southeastern Manitoba.
“I was in such horrible pain,” Milne told Global News, while fighting back tears. “The first thought was I hope I don’t die. I don’t want to leave my family.
Milne was having a massive heart attack. He was rushed from his home in Manitoba to the nearest hospital in Roseau, Minn., part of a long standing, but little known agreement with the province called the Altru Agreement.
Immediately, doctors put a call in to the St. Boniface Hospital to have him flown to Winnipeg for surgery. However, after more than an hour, nothing was being done.
“I remember asking the doctors ‘why is this taking so long? Why is he still here,’” his son Kevin Milne said. “It was just chaotic. It was really scary.”
According to notes written by his doctor in the medical records:
“(They were) experiencing significant delays in transfer to St. Boniface. Ninety minutes after (the) accepting physician (was) obtained, still no ETA for transfer to Winnipeg.”
With his life on the line, the doctor made the decision they could no longer wait for an air ambulance back to Manitoba and he needed to be flown immediately to Grand Forks, N.D., for life-saving surgery.
Milne survived, but weeks later the real nightmare began.
Bills for his care and treatment in the U.S. started coming through.
Including, but not limited to:
- $35,936.70 (U.S.) for the medical flight from Roseau to Grand Forks
- $47,411.75 (U.S.) for his hospital bill in Grand Forks
That is a grand total of $89,921.46 (U.S.) or more than $118,000 when converted to Canadian funds. The province has refused to pay for it, even though Milne had his heart attack in Manitoba but was forced to be treated in the U.S. because it is the closest hospital and part of the Altru Agreement.
According to Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living (MHSAL), there are many areas of Manitoba that are very remote, creating challenges with respect to access to health care services.
“Historically, in the interest of ensuring the well-being of Manitoba residents in southeastern Manitoba, and their access to emergency care during a period when health care in southeastern Manitoba was less accessible, MHSAL entered into an agreement to pay for services at the Altru Clinics in Roseau and Warroad, Minnesota (the Altru Agreement).”
WATCH: An emotional Milne talks about being stuck with the massive hospital bills
The province sent Milne an email stating they would not cover the costs.
“In your circumstances, as the Altru Agreement does not extend to facilities in Grand Forks, N.D., the coverage available for the services you received after electing to be transferred to Grand Forks is limited to the amount available for emergency care under Manitoba regulation.”
But Milne says he never elected to go to Grand Forks. There was no air ambulance available to take him to Winnipeg.
“The doctor said that it was a very eminent that I get to Grand Forks or somewhere to get help,” Milne said. “How much longer we would have had to wait for an air ambulance out of Winnipeg? I have no idea.”
However, the province’s email to Milne said it doesn’t matter.
“Unfortunately, in circumstances in which patients have proceeded to the U.S. for services, repatriation to Canada from the U.S. may not be immediately available. In your circumstances, as the Altru Agreement does not extend to facilities in Grand Forks, N.D., the coverage available for the services you received after electing to be transferred to Grand Forks, is limited to the amount available for emergency care under Manitoba regulation.”
Now Milne and his family are left trying to figure out how to cover the massive bill they don’t feel they should be on the hook for.
“Ultimately, if push comes to shove I will have to pull a second mortgage on our home,” he said. “My wife’s taken a second job and and then all we’re doing all we can to prepare for this. It’s not going to be easy.”
WATCH: Milne said he may have to pull a second mortgage on his home to pay the bills