Problem Solver: Advocate Sherman Hospital to pay for 1-block ambulance ride

Geneva resident billed $901 for tenth-of-a-mile ride from front door to emergency room

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Jeff Holmes will not have to pay for his one-block ambulance ride after all.

A representative from Advocate Sherman Hospital called Holmes on Tuesday and agreed to cut him a check for $901, the cost of the short trip.

"They're taking care of it," Holmes said. "I'm very happy."

The Geneva resident, featured in the July 21 column, was driving his sister to the airport in August when he began to feel ill. By chance, he pulled over his car in Sherman Hospital's parking lot in Elgin. His sister, Darlene Joseph, then got behind the wheel and drove Holmes to the hospital's front door.

Joseph said she ran into the hospital and asked for help. An employee at the front desk asked Joseph if Holmes could walk into the facility under his own power.

When Joseph answered no, the receptionist instructed her to call 911, Joseph said.

A city of Elgin ambulance arrived, and Holmes was taken from his car and driven around the back of the hospital to Sherman's emergency room.

Doctors there said Holmes had suffered a transient ischemic attack, often referred to as a ministroke. He was transferred to Central DuPage Hospital.

In November, the city of Elgin sent him a bill for the ambulance care, including the base rate of $900, plus a mileage charge of $1 for the tenth-of-a-mile ride.

Holmes maintained that the ambulance ride was unnecessary because Sherman Hospital should have helped him or instructed his sister to drive around the back to the emergency room.

When his insurance rejected the ambulance bill, Holmes wrote two letters to Sherman Hospital complaining about his treatment and asking the hospital to pay for the ambulance ride, he said.

Sherman did not respond to either letter, and the city of Elgin eventually sent his bill to a collection agency.

In July, Holmes emailed What's Your Problem?

In the July 21 column, Stephanie Johnson, a spokeswoman for Advocate Health Care, said the hospital would investigate, suggesting there might have been miscommunication between Joseph and the hospital employee at the front desk.

"We would not refuse treatment to anyone on-site at our hospital, regardless of whether they presented to the emergency department or the front door," Johnson said.

Before the column ran, no one from Sherman Hospital had spoken to Holmes about the situation.

When a hospital representative called him Tuesday, she said the hospital had no record of his two complaint letters. The representative promised to send him a check for the $901, and that his experience would prompt changes in the hospital's protocol, he said.

"They said they're going to make some changes internally," Holmes said.

The hospital representative told Holmes the employee at the reception desk didn't necessarily do the wrong thing when she instructed Joseph to call the ambulance from the hospital's front door, Holmes said.

The hospital official "said they tell people at the front desk to call 911 because they don't know what kind of condition the person in the car might be in," Holmes said.

When he questioned why the hospital employee didn't just instruct his sister to drive him around to the emergency room in the back, the Sherman representative told him his sister might not have known exactly where to go, and that every second his treatment was delayed was crucial, Holmes said.

Holmes said the Sherman representative asked him if he'd return to the hospital in the future if he needed care.

"I said: 'Hopefully, I won't need your services.'"

After the ambulance delivered him to the emergency room, the care was great, Holmes said. He is recovered from the ministroke, in part because of doctors and nurses in Sherman's emergency room.

"I can't dispute that," Holmes said.

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