Earlier this year, a friend of mine was rushed to Harborview Hospital. To protect his anonymity, and for the sake of clarity, let’s call my friend ‘Doug Thatcher Tha Booty Snatcher’.
Now, the reason Doug was rushed to the hospital is not important, however, the method in which he was rushed is notable.
You see, Doug is a resident of Bainbridge Island … an island which, despite boasting a population of 20,000 people, does not have a hospital. At least not one with a fully tricked out emergency room.
This being the case, when the people of Bainbridge need emergency medical care, they generally have one of two options:
1) A 45 minute ambulance ride to Bremerton
2) A 10 minute helicopter flight to Seattle
In Doug’s case, paramedics decided that he should go to Harborview, and within minutes, a helicopter landed nearby, picked him up, and made a bee-line for Downtown Seattle.
Well, not really a bee-line. According to Doug, helicopters, even medical helicopters are instructed to fly along the shoreline of Bainbridge Island, and cross the Puget Sound at its narrowest point … directly across from Discovery Park in Magnolia, instead of over the wider Elliott Bay. This way, if the helicopter loses power, chances are greater that it will autorotate down to terra firma instead of plunking down in liquid unfirma like some heavenly turd.
Anyway, Doug, who was conscious for the trip, recalled the journey … flying over the water, banking over the ferry terminal, and skimming the roofs of downtown skyscrapers, before finally touching down at the Harborview Helipad.
When they arrived at the hospital, Doug expected to be whisked into the Emergency Room post-haste. After all, time was of the essence. That is why he took a helicopter to the mainland instead of a ferry like the unwashed-yet-healthy masses below.
He wasn’t rushed inside, though.
Instead, Doug waited on the helipad, about a hundred yards from the ER entrance.
“What’s going on?”, Doug asked the helicopter paramedic.
“Oh, I’m sorry, we’re not allowed to take you to the hospital. Only the ambulance company that serves the helipad can actually take you inside. Per union rules, they have to get a cut of every trip we make to Harborview, and they get that cut by having the exclusive contract to take you through the doors.”
“I don’t need an ambulance,” Doug protested, “I can see the entrance! It’s right there. I’ll just walk to it.”
“I know this whole thing is ridiculous,” replied the paramedic, “but our hands are tied.”
So, Doug waited.
Eventually, the ambulance showed up, and they moved Doug out of the helicopter’s gurney, onto their gurney, and pushed him on the 20 second journey to Harborview, where he stayed for about a day.
Fast forward a couple of months, and Doug finally received his medical bills, including the bill from the ambulance company (AMR) with the exclusive contract.
For a 100′ gurney push.
Doug is disputing the bill.
After hearing his story, I decided to do a little research of my own, and what do you know, Doug’s not alone.
It seems this ruse has been going on for some time, and our public hospital, Harborview, is just fine with it. Whether public or private, the priorities of our nation’s hospitals are always the same.
Now, before you get too angry about all of this, I would like to remind all of you that, even though the State is allowing ill patients to sit on a helipad just so AMR can stick their hand in the monetary cookie jar, it did recently solve the gay marriage crisis, and it also solved the wealthy-flimmakers-paying-taxes plight. It’s easy to see why this situation has evaded legislative oversight.
If you ask me, an extra thousand bucks on a hospital bill is a small price to pay for living in such a well-governed state.