Childbirth can be a stressful experience enough as it is. But for one Prince Albert couple celebrating the birth of their second child, a hefty ambulance bill has become a significant source of anxiety after the fact.
© Herald photo by Matt Gardner
Parents Jolene and Tyler Vanstone pose in their living room with baby son Charles and two-year-old daughter Lucy. The couple is questioning a July 28 ambulance bill that charged them for transporting both Jolene and Charles to the hospital, though Charles had already been delivered at home prior to the arrival of paramedics.
Parents Tyler and Jolene Vanstone currently owe $685 to Parkland Ambulance Care for an ambulance ride that took place following the delivery of their son Charles on July 28.
The charges relate to two separate passengers -- $325 for Jolene and $360 for Charles.
“They’re billing me for a delivery … and then they’re billing ‘Baby Boy Vanstone,’ because obviously at this point, he didn’t have a name on file for a newborn delivery,” Jolene said, presenting her Parkland Ambulance bill. “So they’re charging me and they’re also charging him.”
“The frustrating part is at this point when he was born, he wasn’t a dependent on my insurance yet because he was not born,” she added.
“I know insurance is a whole different thing and I wish I had better insurance, but I can’t even claim his bill because he’s not on my insurance -- because he wasn’t a dependent when this was billed to me.”
The Vanstones initially called for an ambulance after Jolene gave birth at home.
The speedy delivery came as a surprise to the parents, who had been expecting a more protracted birth based on prior experience with their two-year-old daughter Lucy.
“It all happened over the course of two, two and a half hours,” Tyler said. “She went into pre-labour like 2:30, she was in full labour by 3 and by 5 a.m. I was holding the baby.”
Jolene’s mother was present and grabbed a towel before calling the ambulance.
At that point, the family sat on their back deck awaiting the arrival of paramedics.
“Everything was really, really calm actually,” Jolene said. “We kind of enjoyed the sunrise. The baby was crying because it was really cold.
“The ambulance showed up. The 911 operator was going through with my husband how to tie off and cut the cord and everything and (Tyler) had the scissors. He was about to cut the cord when the ambulance showed up, so he let them do that.”
Paramedics helped tie off and cut the umbilical cord before putting Jolene on a stretcher and carting her into the ambulance. They wrapped baby Charles in a blanket and put him on his mother’s chest in the back of the vehicle.
The fact that Jolene was charged for riding in an ambulance did not come as a surprise to the couple.
Charging for the transportation of their newborn baby, however, has become a point of contention.
“Honestly, it feels like highway robbery at this stage,” Tyler said. “It’s not like you have two adults coming and using resources in the ambulance itself. It doesn’t cost them anything extra to take another person to the hospital.
“They’re just gouging you for another person being in the ambulance because, yes, technically, there is another person in the ambulance and they can, so they will. But ... a double occupancy ambulance bill seems a little steep for taking a mother who just gave birth to the hospital with her new baby.”
A double occupancy ambulance bill seems a little steep for taking a mother who just gave birth to the hospital with her new baby. Tyler Vanstone
The pair called Parkland Ambulance to inquire about the rationale behind their bill. They were told that paramedics had performed an assessment on the baby and that there were technically two patients, hence the double billing.
Though the Vanstones have balked at the size of the bill, their hands may be tied at this point.
“We have to pay this bill, because as you see, this is our second notice,” Jolene said. “If we don’t pay it within the next 30 days, we get sent to collections for it.
Still, she added, “Seven hundred dollars is a pretty big bill for a family with a new baby. And I’m on mat leave, so I’m not making any money right now.”
The couple questioned why Saskatchewan Health Services does not cover ambulance costs, particularly in the case of a legitimate emergency.
“A single citizen should get a single ambulance ride a year covered by Sask Health, at least … if it’s a real emergency thing,” Tyler argued. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, my tummy hurts, take me to the emergency room.’
“If it’s legit, I don’t see why.”
But as Parkland Ambulance Care public affairs director Lyle Karasiuk noted, rates charged for ambulance service are out of the control of his organization.
“The rates established for ambulance services are rates that are established by the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region and Ministry of Health, and the way ambulance services are charged are based on the formula that’s established by the Ministry of Health,” Karasiuk said.
“As an operator of the service, we don’t set the rates. We don’t tell you how the rates are charged. That is done by the Ministry of Health in conjunction with the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region in our case, because ambulance services are the domain of the health region … They would dictate the process for fee payment to the ambulance service.”
Though he could not obtain any information relating to the Vanstones’ case when reached on Saturday due to the long weekend, Karasiuk said he would look up the information when it was available and speak directly to the couple.
He encouraged anyone who had questions or concerns to call Parkland Ambulance Care at the number indicated on their bill or the main information line at 953-9800.
“Certainly anybody who has concerns for the services that they are provided by in particular our agency is more than welcome to contact our agency,” Karasiuk said.
“We have quality of care people within our agency who are more than able to provide to them a more detailed explanation.”