A Brief Overview and Comparison of Australia’s Non Emergency Transportation Services

There is no constant, recognized global definition for non emergency transportation services. A general definition put forward however, is the non-urgent movement of medically stable patients. This transport can involve the movement of patients between hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, doctors’ clinics and patients’ homes.

Studies undertaken in several different countries have shown that cases of non-urgent patient movement are growing at significant levels. The Australian government for example, spent $A2 billion on patient transport in the period from 2007 to 2008, which was an 8.5 percent increase on the year before. A large majority of this increase was due to non-urgent patient transfers.

This enhancement in the need for non emergency transportation services has fueled the development of different non emergency transport options in response to varying situations in specific areas. In Australia there are two differing forms of non emergency medical transport: ground transport and air transport. The different transportation options offered in Australia regarding these forms of travel are however, not greatly varied compared to other countries such as the United States.

Ground Non Emergency Transportation Services

Non emergency ground transport services in Australia are generally not as complex as similar systems in larger countries such as America. Much of the non emergency movement of patients is undertaken using conventional ambulances. This can cause significant problems in rural and regional areas, as ambulances used to transfer non-critical patient are then not available for use in emergency situations. This can leave medical staff in an extremely dangerous and uncomfortable situation as the transfer is carried out.

In America, in comparison, non-emergent ambulance services are offered by both the state and private contractors in most areas to relieve stresses on already overloaded emergency medical system. Non-emergent services allow for transport to be pre-organized and undertaken for relatively unimportant medical transport issues, such as transport home after being discharged from hospital. Some such systems have begun to emerge in Australia over the last decade or so, but these programs are still in their infancy.

Some Australian researchers argue that these forms of non emergency transportation services are actually dangerous. This is due to the fact that the patients transferred may not be critically ill; however, many are elderly or chronically ill. In the opinions of some, this requires a higher level of care than simply driving, or minimally supervising the patient, which are the services offered by most non-emergent companies.

Air Non Emergency Transport Services

Non emergency air transport services in Australia in comparison to ground services are extremely highly developed. Due to the large distances between medical facilities in many remote regions, routine medical air transports are standard.

These transports can involve subsidized flights on commercial airlines when specialized procedures are needed, or the implication of dedicated private or government funded air carriers. In most cases however, due to the costs involved in air transport, it is generally utilized in cases when ground transport is not an option.

It is obvious that the non emergency transpiration services, in particular the ground services, offered in Australia could be greatly improved. If Australia continues to follow in the footsteps of other countries such as America in terms of development and growth, there will be no choice. These systems will need to be upgraded or a breakdown in emergency services due to overloading will become a real risk.