Ride-sharing services such as Uber have made it cheaper and easier to get around town, but they have taken away business from both taxis and the public transport industry. Now there are concerns about increasing numbers of people choosing to take an Uber to hospital instead of waiting for an ambulance.
Wait times for ambulances vary across Australia, but on average they usually fall somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes, depending on how close you live to your nearest hospital.
The wait time for an Uber is usually under five minutes.
While wait times are one consideration, there is also a considerable cost saving. If you live outside of Queensland or Tasmania (where ambulances are covered by state-government schemes) and are not a member of your ambulance service, a trip to hospital with a paramedic can cost thousands of dollars.
A trip in an Uber is a massive saving by comparison.
Uber does distinctly warn passengers against using their services for emergencies.
“It’s important to note that Uber is not a substitute for law enforcement or medical professionals,” the company states on its website.
There are bigger things to consider than the cost, of course. If you are suffering a true medical emergency, in an ambulance you will have paramedics who will be able to treat you immediately.
You are also unlikely to be allowed in an Uber if you are vomiting or bleeding profusely, or are unable to get inside the vehicle unassisted.
While it might be acceptable to use a ride-booking service for a non-life-threatening issue such as a sprained ankle or a relatively minor complaint, it is advisable to stay a fully-paid up member of your ambulance service. If you are not an ambulance member, you should consider joining rather than relying on a ride service.
Your health is far too important to try cutting corners with a ride-sharing service and it is always worth considering that while the wait times for an ambulance might be slightly longer than an Uber, the Uber won’t be able to cut a swathe through traffic with lights and sirens blaring.