Sat, Dec 08, 2012 - Page 4 News List

Taipei to charge for ambulance abuse

SERIAL OFFENDERS:Officials have been visiting those deemed to have abused the service to inform them of the new policy and offer medical and social welfare services

By Mo Yan-chih  /  Staff reporter

Taipei will charge NT$1,800 for ambulance transportation for people who use the service for non-emergency use, the city government said yesterday, while promising that the measure would not affect people’s right to emergency medical services.

Starting today, people who dial 119 for the ambulance service under non-emergency conditions will be considered to be abusing the service.

If confirmed by the emergency medical service review committee as a case of emergency service abuse, the city government will bill the individual who used the service, the Taipei City Department of Health and the Taipei City Fire Department said in a joint press conference.

The director of the fire department’s Emergency Medical Service Division, Wang Chi-hsiung (王志雄), said the department is equipped with 78 ambulances and 200 ambulance corps members to handle an average of 400 emergency calls every day.

However, the ambulance service has been abused by some individuals who dial 119 for non-emergency conditions ranging from intoxication to minor ailments.

Such calls have placed an unnecessary burden on the medical team and affected the emergency service for those who are in genuine need of the service, he said.

Last year, 149 residents used the city’s ambulance transport at least 10 times. Of 10 individuals who were deemed to have abused the service, a man who suffers from mental illness called the service 92 times last year, statistics from the fire department showed.

Department of Health Commissioner Lin Chi-hung (林奇宏) said the department started to inform the 149 residents about the new policy starting in March, offering medical and social welfare services to those who suffered from alcohol abuse or mental illness.

“The ambulance service charge policy does not aim to increase revenue for the government. Our goal is to stop abuse or improper use of the free ambulance service,” he said.

The emergency service charge of NT$1,800, including NT$800 for ambulance transport and NT$1,000 for the two accompanying medical staff, is levied in accordance with the Emergency Medical Care Act (緊急救護醫療法).

Liu Yue-ping (劉越萍), a divisional chief at the fire department, said the two departments have set up an emergency medical service review committee to look at emergency service abuse cases, and that the fire department will collect cases on a weekly basis for the committee to make a final assessment and confirm if the service should be charged for.

She insisted that the ambulance service remains free for people in emergency conditions.

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