Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/9/2020 (404 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
An East Kildonan resident is fighting to see ambulance fees reduced or eliminated for Manitobans.
Karmel Schreyer presented Elmwood MLA Jim Maloway with a petition in August which argues that forcing people with "innate physical conditions, such as those who are disabled or pregnant, to pay" fees is discriminatory and calls for them to be discontinued.
"It’s a no brainer," argues Karmel, a historian and author who had a stroke in 2015, a result of which is she sometimes experiences seizures. "The point is, it’s not a level playing field."
Two years ago, Karmel was walking with a friend through Assiniboine Forest when she had a seizure. An ambulance was called, and Schreyer was taken to Grace Hospital for treatment. When she later received an invoice for $500, she decided she needed to do something about what she feels is an unjust system.
"I don’t know why I should have to pay for this access to health-care, when other people don’t have to," the longtime northeast Winnipeg resident said.
For Schreyer, the fact that many groups, including those with ambulance coverage as part of a collective agreement, are exempt from ambulatory fees is unfair. Schreyer gave the Pallister government credit for reducing ambulance fees from $500 to $250, but she does not believe that goes far enough.
"I understand money doesn’t grow on trees," she said. "But in this case, I think it’s reasonable to expect that in Manitoba we can expect free ambulance service where it is provided now."
Her petition argues that "it is fair and reasonable that lawmakers provide the public with the same level of ‘universality and accessibility’ to health services they provide themselves."
"It’s a no brainer," she repeated.
"Removing the deterrent fees and providing free ambulance services to all Manitobans is an idea whose time has come, and the sooner we get there, the better," Maloway told The Herald.
Following her stroke, Schreyer said she has had time to reconsider how those who are disabled are treated in our society.
"There was a time in history when disabled people were expected to stay in doors," she said. "But this is 2020. The idea that disabled people may have to pay for their own ambulance fees is basically saying that they should stay in doors."
To go out or not to go out becomes a question or risk assessment, which Schreyer argues is fundamentally discriminatory.
"It’s unreasonable," she said.
Schreyer would like to see her petition brought to the provincial legislature, something Maloway said he hopes to be able to do in October. She is also encouraging those in support of reducing or eliminating ambulance fees to sign an online petition, as well.
"I’m proud of the people who have been willing to support the initiative," she said. "I hope it works."
For more information, visit change.org/endambulancefeesmb
Sheldon Birnie is the reporter/photographer for The Herald. The author of Missing Like Teeth: An Oral History of Winnipeg Underground Rock (1990-2001), his writing has appeared in journals and online platforms across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. A husband and father of two young children, Sheldon enjoys playing guitar and rec hockey when he can find the time. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org Call him at 204-697-7112