Oklahoma City - The State Health Department has given final approval to new regulations for non-emergency medical transportation companies. That's after State Senator Jim Reynolds had authored legislation calling for the agency to clear the way for these companies to operate legally.
"Up until a couple of years ago, people who had medical conditions that made it too uncomfortable to be transported while sitting up had the option of calling a non-regulated stretcher service for non-emergency trips. But then the Health Department decided that only certified ambulance services could be used for such transportation. Using an ambulance to go to a hairdresser, a doctor, a funeral or other non-emergency errands costs as much as $750, and it isn't necessary," explained Senator Reynolds, R-OKC. A non-emergency service charges as little as $145 for the round-trip transportation.
During the 2001 legislative session, Reynolds authored a bill allowing the stretcher services to begin operating again, pending the approval of new regulations by the State Health Department. After months of meetings involving officials with the Health Department, EMSA and owners of stretcher services, the Governor signed new regulations on Monday allowing the services to begin legal operations in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
"Obviously, there needed to be standards to make sure fly-by-night operators lacking basic qualifications don't take advantage of the situation. But I also wanted to make sure consumers had a real choice of affordable, non-emergency transportation service, especially since Medicare and Medicaid won't pay for that kind of service," noted Reynolds.
"Whether those services could legally operate has actually been disputed for the past twenty years. Some continued to operate outside the law, and some were taken to court because of their business. It was obvious we needed to find a solution that would address everyone's concerns."
Under the new regulations, stretcher services would be required to have specific medical and safety equipment, including roll-bars on all vehicles, as well as having a defibrillator in the vehicle. Also, all stretcher services must have two employees in each vehicle, one of whom must be a certified emergency medical technician.
"I think these new regulations will ensure an even higher level of quality for Oklahoma consumers, while still allowing them to make affordable choices for this kind of service. I think this is really a win-win situation for all those involved," said Senator Reynolds.
Those interested in obtaining a license to operate a non-emergency stretcher service should contact Shawn Rogers at the State Health Department at (405)-271-4200.