SPECIAL COVERAGE: 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500

First responders ask Hoosiers not to trade ambulance ride for Uber, Lyft

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – First responders are sounding the alarm after learning some Hoosiers are calling for an Uber or Lyft instead of an ambulance during a suspected emergency.

A recent study by the University of Kansas found when Uber came to a city, ambulance usage dropped by at least 7 percent.

The study read, "Many have now started to seek alternate, cheaper transport to the emergency room in the form of ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft."

Brian Rasmussen can vouch for that. Over the past two years driving around the City for Uber, he has seen just about every type of person sit in his back seat.

"Most of my passengers are heavily intoxicated," he said. But there are few riders who really stick out. Like the man who thought he was having a stroke.

"He said, 'Okay, well just don't take too long. I'm having a stroke.' And I go, ‘excuse me?!’"

Another passenger, he said, started wheezing in his back seat.

"He was telling me, 'Well, I'm kind of short on breath. I'm having some chest pains. And my left arm feels like it's asleep.' And I'm thinking, ‘great! This guy is having a heart attack in my car!’"

The Kansas study said not only is it cheaper, ride-sharing services also allow passengers to choose which hospital they'd like to be taken to.

We took the study to Indianapolis EMS to find out if the same trend is happening locally. Turns out, the numbers reveal the total opposite.

EMS calls actually jumped last year; 112,180 calls in 2017 to 115,709 calls in 2018.

"We are very busy," said IEMS Medical Director Dr. Dan O'Donnell. However, he knows Hoosiers are calling ride-share services instead of 911, which is why he's asking people to think twice before making that choice.

"We can ease pain. We can ease things like nausea and vomiting. Things your standard Uber or Lyft driver can't do," he said, adding patients can call for help and then decline an ambulance later.

"You could make that decision at a later time, to refuse transport, but at least let us get on scene, evaluate you, and let's make a more informed decision."

Rasmussen said he has two rules: No births or deaths in his car. While neither has happened, he wonders what if he doesn't make it to the hospital in time on the next run?

"This is just nuts," he said. "If something were to happen, would I be liable?"

We spoke with an Indianapolis based attorney who told us, it is entirely possible a lawsuit could be filed against the driver in case of a death and that case could end up in front of a jury, but it's not clear how a jury would respond.

Both Uber and Lyft are against this trend.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Uber said:

"We're grateful our service has helped people get to where they're going when they need it the most. However, it's important to note that Uber is not a substitute for law enforcement or medical professionals. In the event of any medical emergency, we encourage people to call 911."

A spokesperson for Lyft said:

"As stated on our Safety page, Lyft should not be used as a substitute for emergency transportation. In any medical emergency, people should be calling 911."

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