Regina – Ambulance fees are going down for Saskatchewan senior citizens, the fulfillment of a Saskatchewan Party campaign promise in this past fall’s election.
Seniors and Rural and Remote Health Minister Everett Hindley said in a ministerial statement in the Legislature on Dec. 2, “Starting on December 14, our government will further support Saskatchewan seniors aged 65 and older by reducing their ambulance fees from $275 per trip to $135 per trip.
“That is a reduction of more than 50 per cent. In addition, seniors will now receive full coverage for all inter-facility transfers between hospitals health centres, integrated health centres, mental health and addiction centres, and special care homes. As we know seniors tend to need ambulance services more frequently and that many seniors live on fixed incomes. Seniors will receive financial relief through this reduction in their personal health care costs for the service. Having the ability to discharge or transfer patients to a facility closer to their home community, without concern about their ability to pay, will improve patient flow between our health care centres.
“This investment by our government is expected to cost $2.2 million for this fiscal year and $6.6 million annually. These costs were accounted for and the Minister of Finance’s recently released mid year update. Our government values seniors in this province. We're working to provide them with quality, affordable health care.”
To be eligible for SCAAP coverage, patients must be age 65 or over, hold a valid Saskatchewan health card and not have insured coverage by any other government service such as Health Canada, Workers Compensation (WCB) or Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI), according to a government release.
In response, New Democratic Party Seniors Critic Matt Love said, “Certainly, we welcome any effort to make life more affordable for seniors, particularly those who might be ill and in need of an ambulance. We recognize this as a small step in the right direction. But ultimately, this is a drop in the bucket towards reforming the most unsupported and expensive ambulance system in the country.
“Eliminating fees for seniors being transferred between health facilities makes sense. But what this government should be doing is eliminating interhospital transfer fees entirely. No other province in the country charges patients to transfer them within the health system. This issue was identified by this government's first EMS (emergency medical services) review in 2008, and again, the review conducted in 2018. We know the community paramedicine program has been successful in keeping seniors in their homes and out of the hospital. And we wonder why these changes do not expand access to these services? We also know there's been a long-standing practice of excluding First Nations seniors from provincial senior subsidy programs, and anticipate hearing whether these benefits will be extended to First Nations as well. Today's announcement does nothing to address the long-standing issues of short staffing in long term care much more as needed, including minimum care standards,” Love concluded.