Patients in Sweden paying for ambulance call-outs

Several county and regional councils are charging patients for the use of an ambulance. Criticism has been fierce.

Norrbotten, in the north of Sweden, is the latest county health authority to charge patients for ambulance services. From May, it will charge a fee of SEK 200, that's in addition to the SEK 300 that one pays for a hospital visit. Swedish Radio's local channel in Norrbotten asked tax payers if they agreed or disagreed with the fee. Most were critical.

"It will mean that some will go by taxi or take  their own car or not even seek care," said one.

"One cannot help becoming ill and we already pay taxes. I understand that it has become more expensive for medical care but even so, I don't like it," said another person in Norrbotten. 

Nine counties or regions in Sweden are charging for ambulance services, and the cost varies from SEK 150 to SEK 400. Acute patients go free, reports Swedish Radio News.

More than half of the county councils in Sweden do not charge for ambulance services.

The Social Democratic County Commissioner in Norrbotten, Maria Stenberg, points out that the new fee is included in the cost ceiling, and it is being introduced because more care today is done in the ambulance.

"It's not really a matter of transport, we begin care in the ambulance to the emergency department. That is the reason for this," she says to Swedish Radio P4 Norrbotten.

How do you see the risk that citizens are reluctant to call an ambulance although they really should do it?

"We have said that we will follow the issue, for it is clear that if we see that there starts to be very big drop in ambulance call-outs, then we will wonder why that is."