(NaturalNews) A New York woman who had suffered a heart attack and was being transported to an ambulance on a gurney was stopped by a receptionist who demanded that she pay her $5 co-pay before heading out the door.
"You can't even get a book of stamps for that price. I was outraged," said 76-year-old Barbara Antonelli. "It was the most heartless, unthinkable thing to do. They were putting money on top of a person's life."
On Jan. 14, Antonelli visited her doctor at the Staten Island Physician Practice (SIPP) for a checkup, because she had suffered from chest pains the day before and wanted to find out if she was all right. After performing tests, Dr. Jonathan Okum informed her that she had suffered a heart attack. He called an ambulance so that she could be taken to the hospital for more tests. Antonelli was placed on a gurney, with breathing tubes in her nose and wheeled out of the office.
When a receptionist came running up to her, Antonelli said she assumed she had left something behind. Instead, the receptionist asked her for her $5 co-pay, and would not let the gurney leave until Antonelli had paid.
"This was an emergency," Antonelli said, "and they asked for a lousy $5. They could have billed me. I never thought they would have the audacity to ask."
SIPP Associate Medical Director Dr. Jack D'Angelo said that the "ugly" incident was the result of a mistake by an employee and not of SIPP policy.
"This is not an issue of policy, it was an issue of poor judgment by the receptionist," he said. "We will take the appropriate steps to assist this employee and the remainder of our staff to learn from this event and assure that all of our patients are treated like we would like our parents to be treated."
Antonelli said she would not be switching doctors, since Okum was not involved in the incident and knew nothing about it.