Private Ambulances: Functionality, Cost & More
The most well-known ambulances in the United States are the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) who respond to emergencies made by calls to 911. While there can be hundreds of EMS that answer the millions of emergency calls in a year, there are other ambulances operated by private companies that offer services that are more flexible than what 911 EMS can offer.
The EMS or the city ambulances take patients to the nearest hospital within a 10-minute radius from their location of pick up. Private ambulances will take patients to any hospital of their choice. All hospitals are obligated to accept walk-in patients from both public and private ambulances.
Private ambulances are required to have personnel trained in emergency medical services. There should be at least one emergency medical technician as well as medical equipment on board the vehicle. While private services are regulated by the Health Department, volunteer ambulances that serve both rural and urban areas are not subject to the government agency's regulations.
How does the ambulance service work?
Although every city, county and state in the U.S. and in other countries have various ways of handling emergencies, there are some similarities in the way most local areas operate.
When someone makes a 911 call in the U.S., the phone operator, also called the dispatcher, reaches the ambulance company responsible for the area where the patient or caller is located. In most cases, ambulances arrive in at most 8 minutes from the time they were dispatched.
The ambulances carry with them staff such as the paramedic and an emergency medical technician (EMT)
. If the situation is critical, there may be two paramedics in the ambulance. The EMTs are trained in basic life support techniques and can monitor the patients on the way to the hospital. Paramedics have a wider scope of medical procedures to perform. They can administer treatments in opening a patient's airways, insert an IV, treat pain or allergic reactions.
While private and public ambulance services are complementary with each other, there have been instances that the EMS assumes that it should provide all emergency ambulance services. This notion has caused occasional friction between EMS and private ambulance services in the past.
To clarify, people call 911 whenever there is an emergency situation. This is when EMS comes in as this is their territory. However, when an individual needs to go to a hospital for a check-up or to go a nursing home and needs an ambulance take them there along with the the benefits of having paramedics to attend to him or her, then this is the right time to call a private ambulance service.
The EMS, city ambulances or the public ambulances as how they are called, provide 911 services for emergency situations. The patient is taken to the nearest hospital and that is the nature of its responsibility. If a patient asks for more, then they must request a private ambulance
to cater their needs.
When do you use private ambulance services?
As stated earlier, private ambulances take the place of the EMS in cases when patients need a specific hospital or when the case is not really an 'emergency.' Aside from this, there are other ways that private ambulances can be used.
When the doctor of the patient is affiliated with another hospital that is not near where the patient was picked up, then patient should call for a private ambulance to bring him or her to the designated hospital.
Patients who cannot drive or have nobody to drive them to where they want to go, are better off contacting a private service because these services are the ones that cater to this type of need.
Patients with conditions that needs them to feel comfortable while traveling to clinics or a doctor's office or treatment centers, need to contact a private ambulance. Ordinary private vehicles don't have the necessary space, convenience, and medical assistants who can provide the care and attention for certain patient’s needs.
Private ambulances pick up patients from the hospitals where they are discharged and bring them home. They also transport patients to and from the nursing homes.
Private services can offer services outside of the city as EMS are not allowed to do.
Some companies need on-call ambulances for their employees especially when there are events outside their offices. Sometimes, big events and celebrations with many guests also hire the services of private ambulances on standby just in case of emergencies. Private ambulances are good for this purpose.
Private services are equipped with the basic equipment for basic life support, with emergency medical technicians, paramedics, and a specially-trained driver who is always ready to transport patients that needs urgent attention. They also have ambulettes, wheelchairs, and other equipment needed to transport patients who are unable to walk or move.
The cost of a private ambulance service
The rates of ambulances from private companies are not regulated. Typically, their fee structure includes a base rate, charges for mileage, additional care, night and weekend charges, and others.
The bill may also depend on the category. For example, for Basic Life Support (emergency or nonemergency), the rate may be $400 plus $6.50 per additional mile rate. Other categories may include Advance Life Support, Level 1 at $450 plus $6.50 per mile rate while an Advanced Life Support Level 2 may rate $875 plus $6.50 per mile rate. A Specialty Care Transport may be charged $450 plus $6.50 per mile rate.
Private ambulance services can be reached through their specific offices and phone numbers. There is no single number that allows you to reach these private services unlike the EMS which you can get by calling 911 provided that the case is really an emergency. However, some physicians may recommend a specific private service.
In short, private ambulance companies specifically provide non-emergency transport services. For emergency services, call 911 unless the patient has a specific doctor or hospital.