Alberta woman double-billed by private ambulance provider

CALGARY- After suffering a stroke, former Calgarian Paula White moved to the country to recover in peace.

“I’ve always been an epileptic, so what’s happening now since the stroke is I’m having seizures that are lasting 25 to 30 minutes,” she explains.

White moved to the central Alberta community of Penhold, but continues to suffer seizures so severe that on two occasions in early 2013, her family had to call EMS. Help arrived both times, but when the bill arrived there was a surprise.

“When the first invoice came it was for two ambulances, and then with the second incident again they sent two invoices,” she explains. “Two different invoices for two separate ambulances.”

Guardian Ambulance Ltd. provides ambulance services for that part of Alberta, and are one of eight private contractors used by Alberta Health Services.

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In a statement to Global News, company CEO Glen Holly says backup ambulances are in line with company policy.

“Backup Ambulance services help us meet our philosophy, which is in upholding a code of ethics and conduct that place the patient above all else specifically, to be a help, to do no harm, to do everything within our ability to provide comfort and relieve suffering. It is, and will continue to be, our intention to provide the best care and provide the resources that are needed for the best possible outcome.”

White says she wasn’t satisfied with the company’s response, so she took her concerns to the office of the health minister and AHS.

“We have spoken with the contractor on behalf of this individual,” says Darren Sandbeck, VP of Emergency Medical Services for AHS. “The contractor has agreed to waive two of the invoices for the second ambulances.”

He adds it’s appropriate to send second ambulances in some cases, such as traumatic injury accidents or serious heart attacks. However, in Paula’s case, AHS felt the second ambulance wasn’t warranted.

“The decision was made by the contractor at the time of dispatch,” Sandbeck explains. “Now in our consolidated dispatch environment, those decisions are based on clinical criteria at the dispatch centre.”

Alberta Health Services is in the midst of consolidating EMS dispatch services for the entire province. The process is expected to be completed by the March 31, 2014.  Dispatch for central Alberta was consolidated this past August.

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AHS is now investigating to see if anyone else has been impacted by a similar billing error.

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