Woman gets surprise bill after hospital transfer

Ryan Ross
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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.



Organizations: Souris Hospital, Kings County Memorial Hospital, Queen Elizabeth Hospital

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Montague, Saint John Summerside

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Recent comments

  • Adam
    August 07, 2013 - 21:43

    $150? For an ambulance ride? That's a bargain! Down here in the States that MIGHT get you a Tylenol...

  • missing the picture
    August 07, 2013 - 11:47

    "squirrel" free? what's free? last time I checked we pay some of the highest taxes in the country!!! this lovely 14% which we also had no choice in, and was not suppose to hurt low income families is a killer!!! maybe you don't pay taxes "squirrel" but I do!!! right through my nose! and "LOL" yes, if it is a Doctors direction for them to be transfered that way there should be no bill!!! like I already said, that's what we pay taxes, and taxes and taxes for!!!

  • Here's a solution
    August 07, 2013 - 11:16

    Government buys their own ambulances and hire their own employees because the private guy is soaking the government dry and getting rich quick buy your own and save save save

    • Justaguy
      August 07, 2013 - 12:47

      Are you suggesting that the emts are to blame on this one? They work for the employer as they did with the previous 5 private for profit services and have nothing to do with billing. I work with these emts as a firefighter on medical calls and billing is the farthest thing from their mind.

  • What Do You Expect
    August 07, 2013 - 10:51

    Just what do you people expect from this government , free health care from our taxes , ha,ha fat chance , how else is this Ghiz bunch going to make their friends rich , certaintly not by using the tax money as they should . You voted this bunch in after seeing what they did in their last term and will most likely do it again . Brains & common sense in the regular folk seems to be separated when the time comes to voting . Just the Island way I guess .

  • Mary Lee
    August 07, 2013 - 10:50

    Take a taxi next time if you don't want to pay the fees. Why does everyone expect a handout here? Why should other islanders have to pay higher taxes to offer free ambulance services for every tom ,dick and mary ? I cant afford to pay for other people anymore.

    • Townie
      August 07, 2013 - 13:34

      They were not given the option to drive themselves. It was by ambulance only. Otherwise there would be lots and lots of lawsuits being slapped on the QEH for releasing a patient before they were physically ready.

  • huh
    August 07, 2013 - 10:16

    The level of indignation here is a little much. Health Care is broke folks, and so is this Island. Governments own some of that responsibility, but so must everyone who continuously defaults to the "The Government Should Pay!" attitude. Treatment for a heart attack is probably in the tens of thousands of dollars, so count your blessings, because the path we're on has us paying a lot more for our health care in the future. That said, I wholehertedly agree that what a person is obligated to pay should be clear and upfront.

  • don
    August 07, 2013 - 09:53

    FED UP. i agree but remember the old saying what goes around comes around ghiz thinks he is so powerful well time will tell.CONCERNEDFOLK. they bough the new units but they have to wait till ghiz makes new laws to allow them on the road but some one needs a brain implant. look at the new units where is the emergency lights? now they want to cut 10 mill from health i have a simple cure 7.5% pay cut starting at the top ghiz etc and the ceo of health pei also take a 7.5% pay cut the liberals are pro's at that.

    • justaguy
      August 07, 2013 - 11:25

      Don, You obviously have no clue what concernedfolk is talking about. Being in the fire service and knowing a few paramedics on a personal level, the law is that all ambulances must have an advanced care paramedic on board. The province didn't enforce it until recently, now the boat load of primary care paramedics that they just hired are going to have a hard time living off the hours they can get because they aren't allowed to staff an ambulance with another primary care paramedic. To simplify 1 ACP, 1 PCP on every ambulance It has nothing to do with lights and sirens. The new units are for on island transfers only.

    • Concernedfolk
      August 07, 2013 - 15:40

      You got it "justaguy"! All of a sudden pcps can't be trusted with the lives of islanders.. It's an insult! The island doesn't have a big enough pool of ALS paramedics to have one on every unit, so if they insist on this they better get ready to dish out the OT! ($$).. Pcp casuals will be lucky to get a shift a week.. This is only the beginning...

  • Marie Fitzpatrick
    August 07, 2013 - 09:32

    Who is liable if something happens while the patient drives themselves from one hospital to another because they cannot afford to pay for an ambulance? Would a medicated person, that may have had surgery in the past few days, be considered capable of driving or making this financial decision? What about the patient that may still be delirious? Apparently they are not well enough to go home or the hospital would not transfer them to another hospital for continued care. Does Health PEI/doctor or hospital really want to be liable for the transfer of a sick patient that cannot pay the fee and decides to drive themselves to the next hospital? What happens if this patient gets into or causes an accident? Most likely the hospital will ask the patient to sign a release form and when they got to the next hospital they would be asked to sign an admittance form. This is the dirty little way that they avoid being liable and paying for ambulance fees. Patients need to ask for a form from the hospital/doctor stating that they consider the patient fully capable of making a financial decision and capable of driving themselves to the next hospital before they agree to to sign a release form. Best of luck Joanne.

  • Carrie D
    August 07, 2013 - 09:17

    This is really a non story. My family has had to pay for part of the ambulance and helicopter transfers between Ch'town and Halifax and back before. In one case it was $750, the other was $150, or in that range. Those fees were a small amount to pay in order to have my father alive. Five years ago I had a transfer myself between Halifax hospitals and purposely kept $135 aside in case I got a bill. I didn't but again, $135 is a small price to pay to stay alive.

  • Fed up
    August 07, 2013 - 09:11

    Just another case of Ghiz lining his pockets so he can move buildings to fix a curve in the road...or build yet another round about. If people are moved at government's, then GOVERNMENT SHOULD PAY!! Simple as that. Currie should go back to the classroom where he knows what he is doing. Ghiz should try living on OUR incomes! Currie and the rest of the puppets as well.

  • Squirrel
    August 07, 2013 - 09:10

    We are really spoiled, aren't we. . I may NOT be correct to bill to Souris BUT look at the big picture - she got transferred to Saint John & back " FREE " , got all the hospital services " FREE " & she is worried about $ 150. I think she got a pretty good deal for $ 150 . try that in the U S .

  • Curious
    August 07, 2013 - 07:53

    I thought that doctor ordered transfers were not billed to the patient?

  • Lol
    August 07, 2013 - 07:30

    Haha really you thought you were not getting a bill ?? If you use a service your going to pay ! How do people expect services to work if they should be free ? Taxie would have cost you 100 bucks lol .. It's gross to hear people complain about treatment they receive . This woman is likely one that argues about keeping the souris hospital... Your lucky to be alive and well enough to complain about 150 bucks ! Your lucky you live in Canada were your whole bill was 150.00 I think you should be happy to be unhappy

    • Townie
      August 07, 2013 - 13:30

      The gov said that islanders wouldn't have to pay for hospital transfer rides as it was part of its program to reduce the stress on QEH. Otherwise she would of opted to stay at the QEH.

  • BobertBhiz
    August 07, 2013 - 07:29

    "An attempt to speak to someone from Health P.E.I. was unsuccessful". Hahaha, you think? You should try Santa Claus while you're at it. Of course people should ask about fees when taking an ambulance, but in my opinion, they should be told to ask, or warned somehow. When someone is given instruction by a health care professional to do something, they're trusting the advice not out of ignorance or an inability to think for themselves, but out of respect to the profession. If an ambulance is insisted upon, the first thing that comes to mind is, "it must be required", not "they just have to cover their butts for insurance purposes, I could just take the car". The quote from this piece that says she was given no choice BUT to take an ambulance says it all. She should not have to pay. She'll end up having to pay of course, we're not talking about a bill you can just ignore, but she shouldn't have to. More and more people will be refusing ambulances against the wishes of the hospital because of this very common problem.

  • mike
    August 07, 2013 - 06:55

    N.B. for most extensive treatment. should read N.B. for more extensive treatment. Just an FYI

  • Heart Breaking
    August 07, 2013 - 06:53

    And now our Provincial Government has cancelled the Cardiac Rehab programs here on PEI as of April 2013. Now any recovering heart attack patients have to travel to Moncton or Halifax for this very necessary program, which could be 2 trips per week for 6 - 8 weeks. Just one more thing taken away from Islanders.

  • expect anything different
    August 07, 2013 - 05:43

    Do any of us expect it to be any different than this? It is becoming increasingly clear that the goverment is doing what is has in many other instances,,, pulling a fast one on us!!!they figure it's only 150.00 dollars people will pay it. It's underhanded in every way,,, and I'm sorry it is not the job of the patient to question every move the doctors do,,, is it?, but this is not the doctor's decision, this is the system that the goverment put in place! The whole system is being built to undermine the patient!! not to help,, and people we allow it. We still have doctor shortages, nothing is changing for the good, and we stand by and let it,,, it is won't matter until it's one of us in the same situation to respond,,, think about it. Mrs. Jennings did the right thing bringing it forward,,, and I wouldn't pay it either!

  • Unreal
    August 07, 2013 - 05:26

    This is just sickening ... How much more gouging can people take ... My family are on the brink of moving off pei because we cannot afford to live here the hospital is sooo poorly run that sometimes you have to wait half a day or longer at emerg no matter how bad your pain is ... Pei is Where I lived all my life and have never seen it soooo bad .... Pei is doomed

    August 07, 2013 - 05:02

    Take the bill to the Compass newshour and tell them your story. They will reseach and find out just how many people they have done this to . It will a heart attack and the hospital had to transfer, so she should NOT have to pay a dime...

  • User Pay
    August 07, 2013 - 03:49

    Sadly there are too many stories about how our healthcare has declined, but personally, I would have no issue with the cost of an ambulance bill to ensure continued care. I do have issue with not being told when your stay will then come out of pocket.

  • Concernedfolk
    August 07, 2013 - 01:38

    I think it's time to review everything.. Island EMS just hired a boat load of new paramedics that now don't have any work! All because of a law that magically resurfaced all of a sudden thats going to make it harder to staff an ambulance.. There will be longer ambulance wait times to look forward to! (at 0 fault of the paramedics) Thanks Currie! You're the best...