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January 20, 2011

Dead son's ambulance bill outrages father in Canada

The Canadian Press

NEW BRUNSWICK, Canada — Health Minister Madeleine Dube says the fact Ambulance New Brunswick sent a bill to a grieving family less than a week after the tragic death of their son proves it's time to scrap the fees.

Fabien Desjardins said Tuesday he and his wife are upset after receiving a $130 ambulance bill from the night their son Patrick, 17, was electrocuted at a Wal-Mart in Grand Falls.

The teen was rushed to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

While Desjardins did not want to comment publicly at this time, he made it clear he is distressed that the bill came so quickly after his son's death last Wednesday.

Dube said she also is dismayed at news the family was billed for the ambulance service.

''This is really a tragedy for that family and that community and, on top of that, receiving an ambulance bill is certainly a shock to them as well,'' she said.

''This is why we have been saying as a government that this is something we want to revoke, those type of fees. A lot of people have challenges with either paying the bill or, in times of tragedy, receiving a bill. It's really tough. We are working to eliminate those fees. It is still a priority for our government.''

The Conservatives promised to eliminate ambulance fees during the election campaign, but they have not moved on the commitment since coming to power in October.

Dube said the promise will be kept and she is ''looking forward'' to eliminating the fees.

Ambulance services were free under the previous Tory government of Bernard Lord, but Shawn Graham's Liberals reinstated the fees, saying they were trying to stop abuse of the system.

Under the fee structure, residents of New Brunswick are billed $130.60 when an ambulance is called on their behalf.

In a statement Tuesday, Ambulance New Brunswick reiterated its billing policy while also offering condolences to the Desjardins family.

''His death has saddened the entire community, including Ambulance New Brunswick staff in the region,'' the statement said.

The organization said it is ''required by law to send out the bill regardless of the patient's outcome.''

WorkSafeNB has launched an investigation into Desjardins' death.

The Grade 12 student at John Caldwell School in Grand Falls was using a commercial floor scrubber in the garage section of the store when the incident occurred.

Local police have said a defective extension cord was the likely cause of the tragedy. WorkSafeNB said the garage area was damp and the buffer machine was old.

Fabien Desjardins said in an interview with CBC last week that he refuses to call his son's death a workplace accident.

''If you're driving down the road and you hit a moose, that's an accident. If a drunk driver hits you and kills your whole family, that's not an accident, that's negligence.''

Copyright 2011 The Canadian Press

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