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Sask. families paying the price for ambulance trips

WATCH ABOVE: Saskatchewan families learn there’s no free ride after they were forced to pay sky-high fees for ambulance rides

REGINA – If you or a loved one has had to take a trip in an ambulance in Saskatchewan, you may know how costly the rides are if you don’t have a good private insurance policy.

Dave Carr, 70, learned the hard way.

“I couldn’t have believed that in this country, to tell you the God’s honest truth.”

Carr said he was floored when he saw the bills for his wife’s ambulance trips, which quickly added up when Catherine Olund was transported from hospital to hospital while battling cancer for four months.

“I was never asked if I wanted her sent by ambulance or not, I was told they were sending her by ambulance,” Carr said. “There’s a big difference between those two words.”

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“I’ll be darned if I’ll ever take an ambulance in this province.”

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In one case, Olund had to be transported from a hospital in Melville to Regina, then back to Melville, which is about a 300 kilometre round-trip. The bill was $2,654.

For six total trips between three different hospitals, Carr was asked to pay $5,045.

He’s not the only one – former Regina resident Sara Bucsis-Gunn had a seven-year ordeal with her daughter, Leandra, who suffered from seizures and a failing immune system. Ambulance rides cost the family more than $7,000.

“What happened to us could happen to any family,” Bucsis-Gunn said. “Why does it have to financially cripple everyone around?”

Sara Bucsis-Gunn’s daughter, Leandra (left), required several ambluance trips that cost the family more than $7,000.
Sara Bucsis-Gunn’s daughter, Leandra (left), required several ambluance trips that cost the family more than $7,000. Sara Bucsis-Gunn / Supplied

Bucsis-Gunn said family members paid the bills. After Leandra’s death in 2013, the family moved to Campbell River, British Columbia.

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Opposition NDP critics want a cap on how much a trip can cost you, and for the Saskatchewan Party government to eliminate hospital transfer fees altogether. Saskatchewan is the only province to charge for them.

Following question period Wednesday, Health Minister Dustin Duncan told reporter he would only consider a review of interest rates charged on ambulance fees.

“Yes, we have a public system, but … free health care isn’t free,” Duncan said. “We pay over $5 billion in this province just through the public purse in terms of what we cover for health care.”

SEE BELOW: What do ambulance rides cost across Canada?

The massive ambulance bill for Carr has been taken care of by donations, but he said many people may hesitate to call 9-1-1.

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“I’ll be darned if I’ll ever take an ambulance in this province, no matter what the cause.”

Duncan said there are programs to help cover the cost of ambulance trips and he wants health regions to work with patients and their families after the emergency call has been made.

Benefits, such as a break for seniors on ambulance costs, didn’t apply for Carr because Olund was only 62 when she passed away.

“I’m fighting for other people. I’m fighting because it’s just wrong.”