Eric and Dorothy Aitken were shocked to be slugged with a hefty ambulance bill following a recent Queensland holiday.
Eric and Dorothy Aitken were shocked to be slugged with a hefty ambulance bill following a recent Queensland holiday.

$860 for 1.5km ride

By DARREN COYNE

THE QUEENSLAND Ambulance Service has slugged an elderly couple on pensions $860 for a 1.5 kilometre ambulance ride across the border to the Tweed Hospital.

Eric, a blind war veteran aged 84, and Dorothy Aitken, 83, were holidaying at the St George Veterans' Hostel at Rainbow Bay, just over the border, when Mrs Aitken became ill with dysentery.

Other hostel visitors called for an ambulance and Mr and Mrs Aitken were taken to The Tweed Hospital, a journey of about 1.5km.

Mrs Aitken was hospitalised for two days, and upon the couple's return to the South Coast of New South Wales, they received an ambulance bill for $860.

"I reckon I could almost get a trip to Hawaii for that," Mr Aitken joked.

But he was not laughing at the fact that the NSW government refused to cover the costs.

From July 1 this year the NSW government withdrew from re- ciprocal ambulance agreements with Queensland and South Australia, leaving pensioners like the Aitkens, who are travelling out of their own state, responsible for any ambulance bills they incur.

"We get $200 a week each which doesn't go far. We got onto the ambulance service here in Sydney and they said they wouldn't cover it and we asked the Queensland Ambulance Service and they said they wouldn't waive it," Mr Aitken said.

"Our private health insurance, HCF, said they can't pay for it either."

In the meantime, government department's yesterday blamed each other for the situation.

A spokesman for John Hatzistergos, the NSW Health Minister, said the minister had written to his Queensland counterpart, Stephen Robertson, asking them to rejoin the reciprocal arrangement, and the matter would be raised at a National Health Ministers meeting in November.

Paul Versteege, Policy Coordinator for the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association of NSW, said however that NSW Health Minister John Hatzistergos was falsely blaming the Queensland and South Australian governments to hide the fact that he had taken the deliberate decision to allow pensioners to be slugged.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Queensland Emergency Services Minister Pat Purcell, said while Queensland continued to pay invoices from NSW for Queensland residents transported, NSW refused to do the same.

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