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2013 Fall Issue 3 (October 11, 2013)

Taxi Vouchers or Ambulances: What Can You Afford in a Pinch?

October 11, 2013
By Perrin Stein

The next time you overindulge, it could cost you big time - even if you’re drinking Boxer.Taxi vouchers are hard to come by, and with a $1,600 charge for ambulance fees, it puts you between a rock and a hard place.

“We do not have an explicitly written policy on when we use taxis and when we use ambulances. Rather, we use clinical judgment in the moment,” said Marit Lysne, the director of student health and counseling (SHAC).

Carleton uses ambulances in medical situations in which a student needs to be monitored on the way to Northfield Hospital, and taxis are used when a student requires further specialized care.

According to security shift supervisor Randy Atchinson, the taxi service hours change occasionally. So far this year, the service has not been available between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. As a result, situations can arise in which a student wants to be escorted to the hospital, but the taxi service is unavailable.

In these instances, “we use our judgment to determine whether something on campus needs our immediate attention or whether we can take the student to Northfield Hospital,” he said.

For example, Friday, Sept. 27, security transported an ill student to Northfield Hospital at 2:21 a.m., according to Security.

There are two security officers on duty except between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. and during extenuating circumstances, such as illness.

“I guess it is possible that a security officer could be by himself and a student wants to be escorted to the hospital. We might escort the student to the hospital ourselves,” he said. “The risk is minimal. There is risk in everything.”

In order to take a taxi to the hospital, security, SHAC, and the information desk give out vouchers to students. Students can obtain these vouchers after filling out a form on the transportation department’s website and going to the information desk to pick up the voucher. In addition, SHAC gives vouchers to students for referrals, and security personnel give them to students when they are responding to a call or see a situation on campus, Lysne said.

The money for taxi vouchers, which are used for volunteer work and medical needs among other things, comes from the transportation department’s budget. 

According to Mary Amy, information desk coordinator, “We do not keep track of how many security vouchers are used to go to the Northfield Hospital because that number is not of interest to the college. We just need to know how many vouchers total are used, so we have the money in the budget to pay the taxi service.”

Even though taxi voucher and ambulance procedures have been in place since 2010, Lysne said, “People are still confused about where transportation to medical facilities comes from. On admissions tours, I hear people say that SHAC is the place on campus to get taxi vouchers, when in fact they are best found at the information desk.”

This misunderstanding stems from the pre-2010 campus policy in which the information desk did not hand out vouchers. Instead, SHAC was the only place for students to obtain vouchers for doctors’ appointments, prescription pick up, and other medical needs.

“This was inconvenient because SHAC isn’t open all the time and didn’t have the faculty to field all of these requests for vouchers,” she said.

According to Wayne Eisenhuth, Director of Security Services, during the hours in which SHAC was closed, security officers, Northfield Ambulance, or students would transport student to healthcare facilities.

“Students would come to us, but we have only one officer on duty, so it was impossible for security to escort a student and still do its job on campus,” he said.

Now that the taxi vouchers exist, security can do its job better, according to Eisenhuth.

“The only suggestion I have for improvement of the current system is the local taxi service going to 24/7 access,” he said.

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