There has been quite a bit of controversy over the last few years regarding the performance of certain medical emergency transport companies. Patients have complained of the tardiness of EMS workers, and in some instances, the ambulance or means of emergency transport doesn’t show up altogether, which could be the difference between life and death in many situations.
In South Africa, EMS groups have spoken out, saying that they fear for their lives in some areas as EMS vans have been attacked and the attending paramedics robbed and even held hostage.
So, in the midst of all of the commotion and unrest, what do you do when the ambulance doesn’t arrive?
Or, if you’re feeling ill and need to go to hospital, is it appropriate to call an Uber?
Apparently, it is perfectly fine to call a taxi service, within reason. It is also quite common.
An ambulance ride can cost thousands of rand, and a large portion of it may not be covered by your health insurance. With ride-hailing services like Uber or Lyft far cheaper and now available within minutes in many areas, it makes sense to use them if you do not have transport to hospital.
But if you are in need of immediate medical assistance, calling an Uber doesn’t make sense. Then, you need the ambulance to come out and see to you immediately. But, if you don’t have an urgent emergency, and you are not bleeding out, an Uber is a great option to get to hospital quickly and comfortably.
“Don’t reflexively call an ambulance,” said Anupam Jena, a physician and researcher with the Harvard Medical School to The New York Times. “Ambulances are for emergencies. If you’re not having one, it’s reasonable to consider another form of transportation.”
However, the site also says to bear in mind that Uber and Lyft can’t disobey traffic laws the way ambulances can to speed people to hospital in urgent situations. But they can broaden transportation options for patients and could disrupt the ambulance market. Both have announced new services to provide rides to medical appointments in other countries, and this may trickle down to SA users, depending on the success. This kind of non-emergency medical transportation is something many health plans already provide, but Uber and Lyft may be able to do it more cheaply, with better customer service and less waste.