People are discovering that the convenience of an Uber or Lyft can help them in more than just recreational and work-related transportation.

According to a report by WUSA9, Uber and Lyft users are expanding their use of the service to include quicker, cheaper rides to emergency rooms. From transporting a mom and her sick kids to Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, to hauling a man with a bone protruding from his leg to a local ER, drivers report being called upon to go above and beyond what they signed up for. But customers are grateful for a cheaper option. After becoming sick with what eventually was diagnosed as a serious case of gastritis on New Year's Eve, Carmen Torres put off calling an ambulance because the last time she'd needed one, the $600 charge wasn't covered by her insurance.
“I go upstairs, try to lay down, it didn't work out," Torres said. "I threw up. I was like, 'OK, I can't do this anymore.'" That's when she got an idea. She hailed an Uber to take her to the hospital, where she ended up being admitted for three days.
We're grateful our service has helped people get to where they're going when they need it the most," an Uber spokesperson said in a statement. "However, it's important to note that Uber is not a substitute for law enforcement or medical professionals."
Lyft agrees. "In any medical emergency, people should be calling 911," a spokesperson stated. "Lyft should not be used as a substitute for emergency transportation." But in the face of a growing number of 911 calls and an overused ambulance system, D.C. officials have, in the past, talked about adding nurses to the 911 call center to determine whether or not a caller's medical needs might justify using a vehicle other than an ambulance, especially if the needs are non-emergent.
Firehouse Magazine ranked Engine 30 (just east of the Benning Road Metro station) as the fourth busiest firetruck in the nation. It handled more than 7,600 calls in 2015, or about 20 calls a day.
We are working with the health department to find other ways to transport people, such as using a contract taxi cab or Uber," D.C Fire and EMS Department Chief Gregory Dean told News4 last year. "We are trying to find creative ways to try to reduce the strain on the system."

On the non-emergency front, MedStar Health, the largest not-for-profit healthcare system in Maryland and the Washington, D.C. region, has already made some progress in this area, by partnering with Uber to set up transportation at the time a routine appointment is made -- all on their web site.

“Uber is a reliable option — day or night — regardless of where you need to go in the DMV,” said Zuhairah Washington, general manager of Uber D.C., in a statement. “Our collaboration with MedStar can help patients better plan their transportation to and from appointments, and ensure they never miss an appointment because they don’t have a ride.”

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But it all depends on the situation, says Lt. Jamie Baltrotsky, Lieutenant at Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Services. In the case of a true emergency, an Uber or Lyft may not be the right way to go. Drivers are, of course, not trained or equipped to deal with life-or-death situations, nor should they be pressured to help a person in distress.

"Some hospitals don't take pediatric patients. Some hospitals aren't cardiac care centers, and so an Uber driver isn't going to know that," he said.

What do you think? Would you ever take an Uber or a Lyft to get to the hospital? Start a discussion below!

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