Experts advise against using Uber, Lyft as alternatives to ambulance

Ron Ostrom, medical director at Hall Ambulance in Bakersfield, Calif., warns of the dangers of using an Uber or Lyft as a replacement for an ambulance. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

As ride-sharing services Lyft and Uber grow in popularity, people use them for a growing number of services.

But there's one service the companies said recently they don't want your money to perform: transportation in cases of an emergency.

"We're grateful our service has helped people get to where they're going when they need it the most," wrote an Uber spokesperson to Eyewitness News. "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."

Medical professionals agree, they are no substitute for an ambulance.

"People do think that this is a reasonable alternative, unfortunately, and it's not," said Ron Ostrom, medical director at Hall Ambulance. "I'm sure that the Lyft driver or Uber driver is not comfortable with that situation at all. There's panic. Panic is never good. There's trouble with decision-making, whereas at least with 911 you're going to get trained medical personnel on scene to be properly evaluated."

A local Lyft driver, who has worked transporting Bakersfield residents around the city full-time for the last year, said he recently gave a ride to a woman seeking immediate medical attention.

"I just thought it was odd that she was in that bad of shape and she'd call an Uber or a Lyft as opposed to an ambulance," said Albert Gaeta.

He said there was luckily a nearby hospital, but he added, "I'm not going to break any traffic laws or speed laws. If you're not trained for that, you don't want to deal with that."

Hall Ambulance officials said they hope to dispel misinformation about the capabilities of emergency transportation vehicles. Ostrom said ambulances have the equipment and emergency medical technicians have the training to administer lifesaving measures even before a patient makes it to a hospital.

"The difference between the Uber or the Lyft or 911 and prehospital care, proper prehospital care, can be the difference between life or death," said Ostrom. "Saving a dollar when it comes down to that really doesn't make a whole lot of sense."

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