First responders react to trend of patients picking Uber, Lyft over an ambulance

Posted at 10:10 PM, Apr 27, 2017

DAVIS COUNTY, Utah -- If you had a medical emergency, who would you call? Most would have a similar thought process: dial 911 and get an ambulance.

But there’s a growing trend where, instead of calling an ambulance, people are requesting an Uber or Lyft to take them to the hospital. Some riders say they would do it because of money.

A trip with a rideshare service to a hospital could easily cost less than 30 bucks. For an ambulance ride in Utah, that ranges from a few hundred dollars to $1,700.

“Cost is always a concern that's true, but if it's my family member I would sure hope you'd call the closest ambulance available,” said Mark Becraft, the Fire Chief for North Davis Fire District.

With 30 years of experience as a first responder, Mark Becraft knows that in a life or death situation minutes matter, and so does the equipment and skills you have available.

“They say, 'I don't feel well' and we hook them to the machine and realize they're having a major MI [heart attack], and they need to not go to the ER but directly to a [catheterization] lab,” Becraft said.

His team responds to 3,300 calls a year, and he said 82 percent of those are medical.

“A lot of times we arrive and medical attention is not needed and we release, but sometimes it's very crucial that time is of the essence,” Becraft said.

Ambulances are basically mobile hospital emergency rooms and are costly to maintain and staff.

Last year, the North Davis Fire District billed around $2 million for ambulance rides, but less than half of that was collected. Most was written off.

“Across the Wasatch Front, generally no fire or medical services collect near what they bill,” Becraft said.

That inability to collect ends up raising costs for everyone. But if you're having a stroke or heart attack, medical professionals say a rideshare service isn't the one to call.

“It's just unsafe,” Becraft said “I think Uber has its place, I just don't think it's in emergency medicine.”

Uber agrees and is encouraging riders to take an ambulance in all life or death situations. We know there have been a few cases in Utah, but it’s more prevalent and definitely growing in bigger cities like Los Angeles.