Uber drivers share frustration with hospital trips

With an increasing amount of people using Uber as an ambulance to get to the ER, Uber drivers stress that they are not trained to handle emergencies


By EMS1 Staff

SAN FRANCISCO — With the increasing number of people using Uber to get to the hospital instead of an ambulance due to expenses, Uber drivers and lawyers alike are expressing the dangers and legal implications the practice may have.

A recent study found that when Uber enters a city, ambulance ride rates usually decrease due to patients calling the ridesharing company for a cheaper option.

A recent study found that when Uber enters a city, ambulance ride rates usually decrease due to patients calling the ridesharing company for a cheaper option. (Photo/Pixabay)
A recent study found that when Uber enters a city, ambulance ride rates usually decrease due to patients calling the ridesharing company for a cheaper option. (Photo/Pixabay)

According to BuzzFeed News, the popular practice is making Uber drivers uncomfortable as they are not trained in the medical field, but feel obligated to complete the hospital transport once it begins.

“I haven’t been in a situation like that. I haven’t trained for that,” Uber driver Russ Fisher said about an incident where a woman needed an urgent ride to the hospital. “I was torn between whether to call 911 or continue to the ER, but since I was only two minutes away, I figured I’d get there quicker than an ambulance.”

One driver recalled a time when he was exposed to germs and possibly an infection when a rider’s colostomy bag exploded after he was picked up from the hospital, and another said a woman was going into labor in his backseat while on the way to the hospital, leaving him with a mess to clean up afterward.

“If someone leaves bodily fluids, it's up to me to clean,” an Uber driver named Jamie said. “I drive my kids in the car. I don’t want deathly ill people in my car, to be honest.”

Law professor Veena Dubal said drivers put themselves at risk of serious legal liability when allowing people who need medical attention to ride.

“You’re not liable if you refuse to take them,” Dubal said. “You’re under no legal obligation to care for them until they get in your car, and then you’re a proprietor conducting business.”

“What it says is something awful about the state of health insurance, that it's so expensive to get to the hospital via ambulance,” Dubal added.  “It means this is a new, weird, privatized way that people are dealing with emergencies, and the drivers aren't equipped to deal with those things, and they're taking on risks that they're unaware of.”

Dubal added that lawyers are unlikely to sue the driver, but would instead sue Uber and claim the driver was an agent of the company.

“Uber is settling cases left and right because they don't want this issue of whether drivers are employees or independent contractors to be decided in a court,” Dubal said. “So they’re highly motivated to settle. I wouldn't be surprised if this lawsuit doesn’t already exist, or will exist soon.”

 

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