Uber to the ER? Some choosing ride hailing services over ambulances

People taking Uber to ER instead of ambulances

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - People take Uber to a bar or call Lyft to get to a sporting event. But would you use those ride hailing services to rush yourself to the Emergency Room?

More and more people are doing just that.

A chat room for Uber drivers is filled with stories about what happens when people use them to try and get to the ER.

Posts describe people who hailed the ride sharing service to be rushed to the ER for everything from a child having respiratory problems to a guy with bone sticking out of his leg.

One driver even called himself an “Uber-lance.”

RELATED: Just how much would it cost you for an ambulance ride?

That’s exactly what Carmen Torres felt like when she got violently ill on New Year’s Eve.

"Was pretty much screaming in pain. I already had tears,” Torres said. “I go upstairs, try to lay down, it didn't work out. I threw up. I was like OK, I can't do this anymore."

But instead of calling an ambulance, she ordered an Uber. Why? Torres said the last time she did that, insurance didn't cover the ride and she got a $600 bill.

Is calling an Uber to go to the ER a good idea?

Even some emergency officials say there are times when using a ride hailing service to get to the ER is OK. But only if you are headed there for something that's not an emergency which unfortunately happens all the time these days.

"It really depends on what your situation is,” said Lt. Jamie Baltrotsky.

But Baltrotsky said if you're in bad shape, calling an Uber is a terrible idea. Not only do they not know how to help you if your condition gets worse, they also have no clue if the requested ER location is equipped to handle you.

"Some hospitals don't take pediatric patients. Some hospitals aren't cardiac care centers, and so an Uber driver isn't going to know that." Baltrotsky said.

Uber driver Albert Anciako said he’s been hailed by a rider to transport them to the ER.

A couple months ago he drove a mom and her sick kids to Holy Cross Hospital.

Anciako made that run, but he said that’s not what he signed up for.

"No, I would cancel, I would cancel it,” Anciako said, when asked if he would take another customer to the ER.

Uber and Lyft agree. Both ride hailing services issued statements to WUSA9 discouraging the use of their services for transportation to the ER.

“We're grateful our service has helped people get to where they're going when they need it the most," wrote a spokesman for Uber. "However, it's important to note that Uber is not a substitute for law enforcement or medical professionals. In the event of any medical emergency, we encourage people to call 911.”

"In any medical emergency, people should be calling 911. Lyft should not be used as a substitute for emergency transportation," a Lyft spokesman added. 

But after a successful Uber ride to the hospital, Torres said she would do it again. Her Uber ride ended with her being admitted for three days for gastritis. 

Her friend had a different reaction.

"His response was WTF, are you crazy?" Torres said with a laugh.

So how often does this happen? Firm numbers are hard to come by. Neither ride sharing services or hospitals are tracking the statistics. 

The WUSA9 Special Assignment United checked with DC and Virginia too. They're not against you taking Uber and Lyft to the hospital if it's truly not an emergency. One of the upsides of this new trend is easing the burden on its overused ambulance system.

WUSA


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