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Costly ambulance rides a ‘hardship’ for Sask. families

The reality of facing another ambulance bill of more than $1,000 has a Saskatchewan man rethinking his options each time he faces a health issue.
The reality of facing another ambulance bill of more than $1,000 has a Saskatchewan man rethinking his options each time he faces a health issue. File / Global News

REGINA – The reality of facing another ambulance bill of more than $1,000 has a Saskatchewan man rethinking his options each time he faces a health issue.

Darrell Meck was billed $1,224 after being transported from St. Anthony’s Hospital in Esterhazy to Regina General Hospital in October 2014.

The 61-year-old, who is on a fixed-pension income, said he has private insurance but must pay the bill upfront before being reimbursed; he had to take out a loan to pay his bill in instalments.

“They’re deciding between financial hardship and death.”

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Meck has a history of heart problems, including bypass surgery, and worries it’s only a matter of time until he is being loaded into an ambulance again.

“Every time they mention me going to Regina with an ambulance, I think of the $1,200 I’m going to have to come up with,” Meck said.

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His bill includes a $245 pickup fee and a $979 charge for the 426 kilometre trip.

READ MORE: Sask. man wants to end ‘double billing’ for ambulance trips

Opposition NDP leader Cam Broten once again called on the government to cap the fees on ambulance trips plus eliminate interest charges, bills for inter-hospital transfer and the per-kilometre fee.

Saskatchewan’s ambulance fee structure has been the subject of criticism this spring after several people came forward saying the high cost is a barrier to care.

While ambulance fees in the province are among the highest in Canada, Health Minister Dustin Duncan has said Saskatchewan chooses to provide funding for many medications that other provinces don’t.

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Meck, who lives in Stockholm, Sask., does credit the Sunrise Health Region for forgiving the interest payments on his bill and assisting him with a payment plan.

He said he may consider refusing ambulance service in the future because of the cost.

“Think about single mothers, people on a fixed income, they just cannot afford that kind of stuff,” Meck said.

“They’re deciding between financial hardship and death.”