University News

Ambulance outsourcing can incur student EMS fee

By
Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 11, 2012

When faced with an emergency – whether alcohol poisoning or a broken leg – the cost of emergency services and insurance co-pays are the last thing on a student’s mind.
Students are not charged for transportation or medical aid given by the Brown Emergency Medical Services ambulance. EMS costs are covered under an annual Health Services fee – $336 for the current academic year  – which also covers primary care, dermatology care, health education and up to seven visits to Psychological Services, according to the Health Services website.
But the fee does not cover transport and care provided by Providence emergency response vehicles, which are dispatched to campus if the Brown EMS ambulance is already in use, said Amy Sanderson, emergency medical services manager. Students are not informed which ambulance they will be sent when they make the call requesting EMS.
Though EMS does not often receive multiple calls at the same time, “sometimes there are simultaneous emergencies,” Sanderson said. “We do our best to manage those calls ourselves, but we will always send another ambulance if it’s in the patient’s best interest.”
Brown EMS receives around 800 calls annually for ambulance services, about 25 percent of which are alcohol-related, Sanderson said. The most common times for simultaneous calls are busy weekend nights, Sanderson said, though there is no data on exactly how often this happens. The months following vacations – September, October and February – generally bring the most calls, she said.
“We try to explain to students that you should never worry about money when you need an ambulance,” Sanderson said. EMS aims to circumvent the need to call in additional outside help by hiring a second ambulance during popularly-attended on-campus events such as Spring Weekend, in anticipation of larger student need for transport and medical attention. This second ambulance incurs no cost, Sanderson said.
There are no plans to permanently acquire additional ambulances, she said.
One junior, who asked to remain anonymous for privacy reasons, asked her friends to take her to on-site EMS personnel at Spring Weekend during her first year. EMS responders deemed the student in need of immediate assistance and transported her to a nearby hospital in a Brown ambulance.
“I was in a state where I wasn’t really thinking about the fees,” she said, adding that she was pleasantly surprised when she was not charged for the ambulance.
The student said she would never consider the risk of charges if she had to make the decision to call EMS for someone else. “It’s something that I would think about preemptively,” she said. “In a high-emergency situation, it would go way down on the list.”
Natasha Kumar ’13, a Residential Peer Leader, has made two EMS calls for students in need of emergency attention – both first-years. First-years are not often aware they may be charged if transported and given aid by a Providence ambulance, Kumar said. “I think awareness of that increases as people get charged and they spread the word among their friends,” she said.
The issue of Providence ambulance charges was discussed at RPL training, which strongly advocated the idea that health comes first, Kumar said. “RPLs would rather call EMS and make sure students are safe,” she said, adding that the prospect of fees has never affected her choice to call EMS for someone else. “We don’t want students to be encouraged to not call EMS if they need to call EMS,” she said.
Clara Kliman-Silver ’13, also an RPL, said she has heard some students express concern about paying large medical fees. “If it’s not covered under your insurance plan, that can be a big issue,” she said. Health Services should inform students of the possibility of a charge, she said. “I think that any time there is a cost incurred, the students need to know about it.”
Regardless of potential charges, in an emergency situation, “I would always call,” Kliman-Silver said, adding that the “second call would be to (the Office of Residential Life) or to Health Services to make sure the student has a way of handling the medical bills.”

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