Ont. hospital to pay for B.C. man's $27,800 flight
The Ontario hospital that treated a B.C. motocross champion after an accident there said it will pick up the $27,800 bill for his flight home, despite initially telling him he must pay the bill.
Brent Worrall, 45, broke his back in six places after falling during a race on a track in Walton, Ontario, last August. He estimates soaring 40 meters into the air before hitting the ground.
"Once I hit the ground I knew exactly where I was and knew my body was in a whole lot of trouble," he told CTV's Steele on Your Side from GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre in Vancouver, where he is recovering.
The father-of-three broke his neck, sternum and all of his ribs. His heart stopped four times before his first operation.
He was placed in a medically induced coma, and finally woke up two-and-a-half days after his accident, in the Critical Care Unit at the London Health Sciences Centre.
Ontario health officials wanted to send Worrall back to B.C. on a medi-vac flight, but the daredevil said he and his wife were worried about the cost because he didn't carry any extended health coverage.
"We stated that we just had B.C. medical coverage and that we wouldn't be able to afford any special type of flight -- and they assured us that they were taking care of it…and that we were not going to be on the hook for it."
Days after arriving home in Vernon, the daredevil nicknamed Airmail received a bill for $27,800 for the air ambulance flight.
"I have so many expenses that have been incurred as a result of this injury due to my personal care and rehabilitation and to be burdened with this $27,800, I mean, I'm confronted with personal bankruptcy," he said.
His wife Gisela emailed the hospital social worker who had handled their case. She responded saying that she believed it would be taken care of.
"I am in shock about your receiving a bill. I was under the impression it was being taken care of by us," trauma unit social worker Karen Pierre wrote in an email on Sept. 26, 2011.
While B.C.'s MSP program covers basic care for British Columbians if they're injured out of the province, it will not cover travel expenses, like an air ambulance.
The province says Worrell should have stayed in the Ontario hospital until he was well enough to fly on a commercial flight home. B.C. doesn't require patients to return home for care, as long as equivalent care is available in the other province. The Ministry of Health told CTV News that it doesn't have control over the bill because it's from Ontario.
Early Wednesday the head of communications at London Health Sciences Centre, Rachelle Wood, said all patients are advised of costs associated with out-of-province transfers and maintained that Worrell would have been advised of the bill before he left the hospital.
But late in the day hospital staff appeared to have a change of heart, saying they would pick up the tab.
"Upon further review, it became evident that conflicting information may have been shared regarding payment. As a result, LHSC is assuming the costs of the air transport for Mr. Worrall," Wood wrote in an email to CTV News.
"We apologize to Mr. Worrall and his family for this misunderstanding."
Worrall says the news is a great relief.
"It felt like a medicine ball was lifted off my chest. I felt a freedom I haven't felt in a long time," he said.
Watch CTV tonight for a full report from Lynda Steele, and reaction from Worrell...