In an effort to cut costs for non-emergency patients who need transportation to hospitals, the City Council has approved wider use of gurney vans in Long Beach as an alternative to ambulances.
The council voted unanimously to approve the use of the vans, which generally cost patients less than half what they would pay to be transported by ambulance. The vans typically are used for patients who need hospitalization for treatments such as dialysis, chemotherapy or radiation.
According to a city study, the cost of emergency ambulance service to a patient can be as high as $250, while the cost of van service was estimated at $105.
Several local ambulance firms had opposed use of gurney vans, saying they fear patients with serious illnesses might opt for a gurney van to save money when they need an ambulance outfitted with sophisticated life-saving equipment. But the statute approved by the council requires that a doctor approve the patient's use of a gurney van.
One ambulance firm has been licensed to operate gurney vans but only to county medical facilities. The council's decision opens the door for firms to offer the service on an unlimited basis.