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Saskatoon residents surprised by ambulance bills

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WATCH: Saskatoon first responders likely saved dozens of lives in January during a carbon monoxide leak on Bateman Crescent, but now there is confusion and frustration over who is paying the ambulance bill – Mar 10, 2021

The paramedics likely saved their lives, but now the bill has come due.

Amit Kotwani and his family were some of the 30 residents of the Bateman Crescent apartment building whom first responders took to hospital on Jan. 14.

The Saskatoon Fire Department discovered a furnace in the basement was emitting poisonous carbon monoxide.

An ER doctor noticed the symptoms in a patient and alerted first responders.

Read more: Saskatoon needs to review carbon monoxide regulations: Clark

Saskatoon Police, firefighters and Medavie Health Service West paramedics swarmed to the building, located in the Greystone Heights neighbourhood in Saskatoon.

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But Kotwani told reporters that paramedics didn’t tell him how much the trip would cost.

He now has a bill for nearly $1,000.

“I didn’t call for the ambulance… nothing wrong done by me, or my family, it was just the thing that happened in the building,” he said.

“And because of that I have to pay the bill.”

The bill for Jean Romero’s family was $800.

They both said they have insurance that will cover the costs, or most of the costs, but the bills still surprised them.

“You don’t have money set aside for that,” Romero said.

“It will take a while for (the) money to come back, there’s no extra for this kind of thing.”

Read more: Saskatoon doctor recognized for response to carbon monoxide poisoning

Both said they were grateful for the paramedics’ help but said they didn’t call the ambulances. During such a traumatic time, they didn’t know who would pay for the trip to the hospital.

Kotwani said he tried to ask a paramedic about it during the ride but the paramedic didn’t really answer.

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Medavie spokesperson Troy Davies said the cost is the last thing first responders think about.

“Their only priority is (the) patient,” he said, speaking over Zoom.

Unlike police or the fire department, paramedics do not receive city funding.

The Ministry of Health, in a statement, said a paramedic’s primary concern is providing care and transportation, “not whether the patient will be billed or in what amount.”

Davies said Medavie is willing to work with patients on repayment plans, even “if it’s $25 a month, interest-free.”

Read more: 43 people at Saskatoon apartment building treated for carbon monoxide poisoning

“The last thing we want is for someone to think that they’re not going to be able to pay their bills.”

Kotwani and Romero said they had initially reached out to Mainstreet Equity, the property owner, about paying the ambulance fees, since it was Mainstreet’s furnace emitting the poisonous gas.

Both residents said the company told them to reach out to other parties, like Medavie or insurance.

In a statement to Global News, a vice-president of operations for the company stated they were unable to comment on any matters relating to Ministry of Health billing policies, or the claims of procedures of private tenant insurance policies.

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Almost an hour later the company issued another statement.

“Mainstreet Equity encourages anyone who has had to pay a bill without ability to seek reimbursement to reach out to us.”

“We will work with them to provide necessary financial assistance on a case-by-case basis.”

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