Thanks to emerging technologies and advancements in the medical field, people are living longer and healthier lives. According to the most recent census, 13.1 percent of Georgians are over 65 and the overall number is expected to double within the next 10 years.
In order for elderly populations to live healthy lives, they must be able to safely and reliably get to and from medical appointments. For those who don’t have a car, there’s the Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) program. The program offers eligible members transportation to appointments covered under Medicaid.
While non-emergency medical transport is an important service for many people, users of the service are not always safe. Inexperienced drivers, poor maintenance on vehicles, and negligence are putting riders of non-emergency transportation at risk.
How Non-Emergency Medical Transportation Works
In order be eligible for the Non-Emergency Medical Transportation program, a member must not have any other means of transportation and must be going to a medical appointment covered under Medicaid.
For example, patients who need transportation to a dialysis appointment or to an adult day care facility are eligible for the program.
In Georgia, a member or person acting on behalf of the member must contact one of two brokers — Southeastrans or LogistiCare — depending on their region. An appropriate transport vehicle is then selected by the broker. For example, if someone needs transportation to a doctor’s appointment, a minibus may be used. But, if someone needs transportation to an adult-assisted living situation, a stretcher van may be used.
Responsibility of Non-Emergency Transport Drivers
According to the Georgia Department of Community Health, the two brokers are responsible for ensuring the quality, verifying members’ needs, contracting with transportation providers, and overseeing administration.
Drivers of the vehicles are responsible for securing all passengers and making sure they are safely delivered to their destination. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.
Common Accidents During Non-Emergency Transportation
Despite some regulations, the trips on non-emergency medical transport vehicles are not always trouble-free.
Many different accidents can occur during these trips. These include but are not limited to:
- Collisions with other vehicles or objects
- Improper restraint of a wheelchair
- Dropping patients during pickup or dropoff
- Failing to secure a patient
- Leaving patients in unsafe conditions
- Failing to properly maintain vehicles
- Leaving patients unattended at locations
These types of accidents can result in serious injury and even death.
Who is Responsible For NEMT Accidents?
Although the term ‘accident’ is often used, the situations where people are injured during non-emergency transportation are often preventable. In some cases, a driver is simply too inexperienced at driving larger vehicles and collide with other vehicles. In other cases, a driver may not know how to properly secure a patient with the restraints.
Securing a wheelchair can be a difficult and cumbersome task that requires training and practice. Drivers are often ill-prepared to handle passengers who need extra care and attention.
Non-Emergency Medical Transportation Lawsuits
In 2010, a woman named Sylvia Mornay was taking a Southeastran subcontracted van in Atlanta when the driver unexpectedly slammed on the brakes. According to Channel 2 Action News in Atlanta, the driver had failed to properly secure the wheelchair-bound Mornay and she was thrown to the floor. She died of her injuries two months later.
“She survived breast cancer, and then she survived the evacuation [of Hurricane Katrina] and the whole losing everything as far as Hurricane Katrina is concerned,” her daughter told the news station “It was very difficult, and a lot of times very surreal, to know that we had been through so much and then to have that happen to her in such a fashion.”
The family sued Southeastrans for negligence.
Over the last few years, hundreds of incident reports have been filed by subcontractors of the two brokers to the Georgia Department of Community Health. This is unacceptable.
If you or a loved one have been injured or killed during non-emergency medical transportation, you have recourse. It’s your right to have ADA compliant transport to medical appointments. Contact The Eichholz Law Firm today at 855-551-1019 to find out how we can help you get the justice you deserve.