Ambulance Victoria to make fees for 'treatment without transport' fairer following Ombudsman investigation

Date posted:

Ambulance Victoria has agreed to Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass’s recommendation that it stop charging people $532 for ‘treatment without transport’ when an ambulance is called by a third party.

Tabling her Investigation of a complaint about Ambulance Victoria in the Victorian Parliament today, Ms Glass said Ambulance Victoria issued 17,758 invoices for treatment without transport in the 2017-18 financial year. Her office’s review of 120 of these cases found some ‘questionable practices’.

“There were people being invoiced for ambulances called by well-meaning friends or strangers where transport wasn’t required,” Ms Glass said. “Neither the Good Samaritan caller, nor the injured party, expect to receive a bill.

“There were cases where more than one person was attended by the same paramedics at a scene, with each of them being billed over $500 for treatment without transport.”

Ms Glass’s investigation was sparked by a complaint to her office from a Victorian man who received a $519* invoice for treatment without transport. The man had been injured in an altercation and an ambulance was called by a third party, without his knowledge. The man allowed paramedics to assess him and clean his wounds but refused further medical attention. He was not informed he would be invoiced $519 for the treatment.

While Ms Glass accepted that it was “the role of paramedics to respond to medical emergencies, not get involved in discussions about fees”, she said that “it is also not unreasonable for people to be informed that an assessment, including receiving unsolicited ‘reassurance’, might cost them over $500.”

She said it was incumbent upon Ambulance Victoria to exercise greater discretion when people dispute an invoice.

“Several cases of disputed invoices raised questions about Ambulance Victoria’s exercise of discretion, or more accurately, the lack of discretion showed in cases where the fee was plainly unfair,” Ms Glass said.

“Ambulance Victoria provides a dedicated professional service for which hundreds of thousands of people are grateful; the changes to their charging policies will make it a fairer one.”

Ambulance Victoria has accepted all five of the Ombudsman’s recommendations including:

  • Cancelling the invoice issued to the man who made the initial complaint and refunding any other people who can provide evidence of payment in similar circumstances over the past 12 months, on the individual’s request.
  • Ceasing charging each patient for a full treatment without transport fee at a multi-patient event, wherever practicable splitting the charge.
  • Ceasing charging a treatment without transport fee where the ambulance service is activated by a third party and the patient did not know an ambulance was being called, or could not reasonably have consented to it, including when an ambulance is called by police.

Of the case studies examined by the Ombudsman, people had been charged a $519 treatment without transport fee in situations such as:

A man was visited by paramedics at his home after his girlfriend, who was not with him at the time, called 000 saying he had threatened suicide. The man refused assessment or treatment, saying his girlfriend had misconstrued his text messages.

First aid officers requested paramedics to treat a woman running in the Melbourne marathon who had fallen over. The woman refused transport to hospital and completed the final 7km of the marathon.

An eleven-year-old on a flight to Melbourne woke with swelling on his face. He was given medication by flight attendants and his symptoms resolved. However, paramedics had been called and when the flight landed they assessed the boy, who did not go to hospital.

Read the report: Investigation of a complaint about Ambulance Victoria

Media contact: 0409 936 235

*The amount of the Treatment without Transport fee in 2017-18. The fee is $532 in the 2018-19 financial year.