Sunday 24 January 2021

Dutch corona ambulance stopped and told to pay €6 toll at Belgian tunnel

Photo: Depositphotos.com

A Dutch ambulance crew transporting a patient with coronavirus to Zeeland were held up for 20 minutes because a Belgian tunnel operator refused to waive the €6 toll.

The crew were on their way to Terneuzen via the Antwerp ring road with a woman on board when they were stopped at the toll barriers for the Liefkenshoektunnel. The patient was being treated with oxygen but in a stable condition.

Expecting to be waved through, the crew waited for 10 minutes until an operator told them via the intercom to pay the fee. They reversed away form the barrier and drove to the booth to explain that they had a sick patient on board, but the operator refused to back down, paramedic Martijn Hendriks wrote in a Facebook post.

‘You’re on Belgian territory and you have to pay the toll,’ Hendriks quoted the operator as saying. When they attempted to pay by cash, the operator declined to take ‘infected corona money’ and insisted Hendriks use his bank card.

‘The patient we were transporting didn’t understand it either,’ he told AD. ‘She was in a stable condition, but was receiving oxygen and needed the toilet urgently. And it was better for her and everybody else’s safety for us to bring her to the hospital in Terneuzen as fast as possible.

‘When we arrived in Terneuzen and told our colleagues the story they were all perplexed. They’d never heard of anything like it in these extraordinary times.’

Marc Persoon, general director of Tunnel Liefkenshoek, said it was not the tunnel’s policy to charge ambulances transporting patients to hospital.

‘This shouldn’t have happened,’ he told DutchNews.nl. ‘We have a procedure where emergency vehicles that are recorded in our system are allowed through without paying the toll and it wasn’t followed on this occasion.

‘I have spoken to the chairman of the regional safety council in Zeeland to ensure that all parties are aware of the protocol and incidents like this don’t happen again.’

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