© Submitted photo
Souris-Elmira MLA Colin LaVie, left, and Joanne Jennings look over a $150 bill for an ambulance transfer from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown to Souris.
When Joanne Jennings had a heart attack it landed her in four different hospitals as she went through treatment and recovery.
Almost a month later she got a bill for a $150 ambulance ride after she was transferred from Charlottetown to Souris.
"I really was surprised to get it," she said.
Jennings had a heart attack at Kings County Memorial Hospital in Montague on June 11 before transferring to Saint John, N.B. for most extensive treatment.
She said she was transferred to Charlottetown two days later, but only spent one day at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital before a transfer to Souris to make room for another patient.
Only her trip from Charlottetown to Souris cost her and the ambulance bill was because the transfer was a non-emergency, Jennings said.
"I don't know how to define an emergency because if you're sent to the Souris Hospital there's no emergency at the Souris Hospital."
In March, Health Minister Doug Currie announced changes to the provincial health-care system that included plans to use rural hospitals to lighten the load in Charlottetown and Summerside by transferring patients to free up beds.
Currie later said a review of all ambulance billing practices was underway in response to the anticipated increase in transfers between hospitals.
Jennings said when it came to the transfer she wasn't given an option other than going by ambulance and she expected a lot of people in similar situations would be caught off guard if they were billed.
"You're going because you need to go because they need the bed," she said.
In Jennings's case she also shared the ambulance with another patient.
Nobody mentioned she would have to pay for the transfer and she didn't ask because she was still groggy as she recovered from the heart attack, Jennings said.
"It never dawned on me that I was gonna be billed."
Jennings said she thinks the government should make it clear to the public they will be charged in non-emergency situations.
"I guess it pays to ask too," she said.
Souris-Elmira MLA Colin LaVie said there is too much confusion around the issue of billing for hospital transfers.
"It's time for the minister (Currie) to be clear on his government policies," LaVie said.
LaVie also said ambulance bills for transfers are causing Islanders anxiety and worry.
"This government should pay," he said.
An attempt to speak to someone from Health P.E.I. was unsuccessful.