Jump in Bega’s unpaid ambulance fees

NSW Ambulance fees are increasingly going unpaid by Illawarra, Shoalhaven and Southern Highlands patients, with the number of outstanding debts totalling more than $1.1million over a two-and-a-half-year period.

Just over 2500 ambulance trips in the region – spanning Bega to Wollongong and inland to Bowral – weren’t paid for between the start of July 2015 and January 19 this year, data from Revenue NSW shows.

Nowra topped the list of outstanding debts, with 1130 unpaid ambulance trips during that period. Those unpaid fees were worth a total of just over half a million dollars. 

The figures showed the number of unpaid ambulance fees in Nowra rose from 140 in the 2015-16 financial year (FY) to 492 in 2016-17. The number for the 2017-18 FY (as of January 19) was 497. 

In Bega there were 175 unpaid trips in the period between July 1, 2015 and January 19, 2018. Patients owed a total of $91,992 in that period, with Revenue NSW spending almost $28,000 in enforcement costs to recover outstanding money.

More Bega fees have gone unpaid so far in the 2017-18 FY than in the entire two-year period from 2015-17 combined, the figures showed. A little more than $60,000 is owed from the current financial year alone.

An unpaid ambulance fees notice is issued by Revenue NSW to people who have an outstanding invoice.

Civil sanctions are imposed if a fees notice remains unpaid or unfinalised. 

For each sanction imposed, a $65 enforcement cost is added to the fee.

A Revenue NSW spokeswoman said a rise in the amount of unpaid fines didn’t necessarily mean there had been an increase in ambulance callouts.

The spokeswoman said the number of unpaid fines could be attributed to “a multitude of reasons”, including a person not lodging their exemption details or the exemptions still being verified/finalised at the time the data was published. 

Revenue NSW could also be attempting to locate and contact the customer regarding the invoice. If they are unable to be located, the debt may be written off. 

NSW residents who need an ambulance are charged a callout fee of $372, plus an extra $3.35 per kilometre travelled. The maximum charge for ambulance trips via road, fixed-wing aircraft or a helicopter is $6095.

Those with private health insurance or ambulance-only cover don’t pay. Pensioners, veterans and health card holders are also exempt.

BY THE NUMBERS*

  • Batemans Bay – 240 
  • Bega – 175
  • Bowral – 66
  • Kiama – 81
  • Nowra – 1130
  • Shellharbour – 198 
  • Wollongong – 639

*Number of unpaid overdue NSW Ambulance invoices by postcode. Source: Revenue NSW. Figures from July 1, 2015 - January 19, 2018.

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