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Saskatchewan News

Regina mother wants government help with ambulance fees

She's paid thousands of dollars in fees since 2009
Reported by Kevin Martel
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If it isn’t hard enough already, from an emotional standpoint, for a family to deal with a critically ill child, try adding the financial pressures associated with it on top.

That’s the reality for Sara-Bucsis Gunn and her family. Gunn’s seven-year-old daughter Leandra was born with congenital Cytomegalovirus (CMV), a virus passed to an infant before birth that can result in a variety of developmental disabilities, both mental and physical, while having the possibility of serious disease for those with weakened immune systems.

Gunn questioned why the government of Saskatchewan doesn’t have a program in place to help ease the financial burdens of using the ambulance for her daughter so often.

“She’s had at least five trips for 2012. It’s one of those things where the nurses and main doctors know who we are, the ambulance attendants know who we are, they recognize us, they recognize the address,” said Gunn.

An ambulance ride in Regina costs $325 per trip, plus the possibility of an extra $2.30 per kilometre. Gunn said it adds up, estimating since 2009 they’ve spent close to $5000 in ambulance fees.

“It’s scary to think, would I put my child in a circumstance where we maybe need an ambulance but I can’t afford it? How many other families are out there that have kids with medical issues that just, you know, the bills add up,” Gunn said.

Gunn said there are a variety of other expenses to worry about on top of the ambulance fees. They need several machines in their home to help Leandra’s health from declining, and they run the family a couple thousand dollars a year. She’s on a special diet, so that, along with other food, gas, babysitters and hotel rooms are needed if they have to travel to Saskatoon.

“A lot of extra expenses and then on top of that you get a bill for over $300. It’s kind a kick to the teeth.”

She would like to see the government introduce some sort of program for middle-class families who frequently need to rely on ambulance trips for their kids. She said she’s not looking for a free ride, just some sort of discount or reimbursement.

Saskatchewan's health minister, Dustin Duncan, said there are a couple of programs designed to cover part of the costs for certain ambulance users, such as seniors and low income earners. But he admitted he hasn’t looked at offering any new programs.

“I wouldn’t say that those are cases that are raised too often, certainly not to my office. I don’t think the inquiries or demands for that type of service have been raised by many people,” Duncan said.

He added it would be difficult to implement a uniform program since everyone's circumstances differ.

Duncan outlined how provincial funding for ambulance services has actually increased by 30 per cent in the last five years and patients only pay for a very small fraction of an ambulance ride.

Still, that’s of little consolation to Gunn’s family who don’t qualify for any of the aid programs, and whose extra health insurance only goes a short way in paying for the overall costs.

“I really feel like there’s a lack of compassion from the government as far as these circumstances and I think it needs to be looked at and addressed. I’d really love to see our government step it up,” Gunn said.

Edited by CJME's Lisa Schick.