SALISBURY — Though a lot of people will find themselves in need of an ambulance at some point, not everyone is able to afford the trip. That’s why the Salisbury City Council is considering participating in an EMS hardship program administered by Lifequest Services.
The average ambulance bill in the city of Salisbury comes out to about $650, according to Fire Chief Rick Hoppes. The council acknowledged Monday that there are many residents who likely can’t afford anything like that. A hardship program like the one offered by Lifequest permits write-offs for certain situations.
No resident should ever hesitate to call for an ambulance in a true emergency just because of the cost, said Council President Jake Day.
The council was in line on that, but had questions about how the actual hardship program would function. There should be some limit to the number of times every year that someone could call an ambulance and take advantage of the hardship forgiveness, according to Councilwoman Shanie Shields.
“I think this is great. I think this is a beginning. But I also think there should be a limit on how many times you can claim hardship,” she said, suggesting one per year.
A limit was justifiable but Keith Cordrey, director of internal services, cautioned the council not to set the bar excessively low.
“Well, it makes perfect sense if someone’s abusing it. It doesn’t make perfect sense if someone really did need to go multiple times and they truly were in that zero to 150 percent of the poverty line,” he said.
There is already some control in place to deal with abuse, added Hoppes. When EMS service is called in, he explained to the council that the paramedics on site evaluate the condition of the patient and make a determination as to whether the medical transport is an emergency and will inform the patient. If the transport isn’t necessary, the subject has to sign a document acknowledging as much.
Day favored having any applications for hardship beyond one per year per person forwarded to Cordrey for review.
It should be noted that all applications for hardship will have to meet a certain criteria to qualify including applicant’s relation to the poverty level and whether being forced to pay for an ambulance would adversely affect their ability to pay for basic necessities. The council will vote on the hardship program at their legislative meeting next Monday night.