The city has apologized for sending bills to Winnipeggers who sought medical attention after getting a COVID-19 shot at Manitoba's largest vaccine clinic.
Two people who received checkups from paramedics during their appointments at the RBC Convention Centre supersite were later billed, a Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service spokeswoman confirmed Thursday.
An 86-year-old member of the Order of Canada was one of them. Two weeks after he was vaccinated against COVID-19, Tom Denton received his surprise $228 bill in the mail.
Denton, a longtime refugee advocate and founding publisher of the Winnipeg Sun, was immunized on March 18. After waiting the required 15 minutes post-jab, he had his blood pressure checked by a uniformed paramedic and went home shortly afterward, not expecting to be asked to pay for the checkup.
It had taken only 18 minutes for both him and his wife to receive their first-doses, and Denton said he had no complaints about their experience at the supersite — until he checked the mailbox this week.
"We came home, we were so impressed, and we've been telling others how well it went and so forth, and then the day before yesterday, I get this bill. I was totally shocked," Denton told the Free Press on Thursday.
"There was no indication whatsoever that it was going to cost any money."
After being contacted by the Free Press, municipal and provincial spokespeople said the bill was a mistake.
One other person was also mistakenly billed for paramedic treatment at their vaccine appointment. After that person contacted the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service, the service reviewed all paramedic treatment incidents at the supersite to make sure no one else was incorrectly billed. Patients should only expect a bill if they needed paramedics to take them to the hospital from the supersite, a WFPS spokeswoman said.
As part of the vaccine rollout, the province made arrangements with the WFPS to station one advanced care paramedic at the vaccine clinic per day to help monitor clients, but they were not supposed to bill individuals.
"While we cannot speak to a specific medical incident involving an individual, no bills should be generated or sent to clients who require on-site care during the post-vaccine monitoring period at this site. If a client received a bill for this type of care, it was in error. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused," a WFPS spokeswoman wrote in an emailed statement.
"The WFPS will work directly with clients to resolve this issue, and we will continue to enhance our system to prevent further incidents like this from happening in the future. At this time, in the event a patient requires transportation to hospital from the site, a bill will be generated, as per regular billing practices."
Denton said he assumed he was following the proper procedure when he agreed to see a paramedic on site. Upon being informed by a reporter the bill was sent in error, Denton said the situation is "bizarre."
At their vaccination appointment, after getting their shots and waiting for 15 minutes, he and his wife grabbed their walkers and stood up to leave the supersite. That's when an attentive staff member asked him how he was feeling, Denton said.
"I said, 'I feel a little woozy,' and that was probably the wrong thing to say." In retrospect, he said, it's not unusual for him to feel a bit light-headed when he gets up quickly. But the paramedics' cubicle was right in front of them, and he agreed to get his blood-pressure checked. He spent about 10 minutes with the paramedic, who asked if he wanted to go to the hospital. Denton said he didn't, that he felt fine, and he went home.
"When they offered to check me out, I said, 'well, sure.' I just thought I was being accommodating to the process," Denton said. He said he has not experienced any side-effects from the vaccine.
He said "it's not reasonable at all," to be billed for this kind of service.
"Nobody would volunteer to go and be checked, I should think. I mean, it would discourage anyone from reporting anything wrong," he said.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.