Hurt and taking an ambulance? Not so fast

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- It would make sense that if you're hurt an ambulance would take you to the closest hospital. But that's not the case here in the Tri-Cities.

It's a scary thought for most people. A car wreck, bike accident, or heart attack that requires an ambulance ride.

"What decides where you take a person other than where they want to go?" says David Mank.

And he isn't the only one. He had an accident last year and wanted to be taken to Kadlec. Based on his injury, paramedics told him they had to go to KGH.

"They were just like...we have to go there."

Reporter: "And you didn't fight them on that?"

"No no, I said what ever, just fix me," he recalled.

There are now four emergency centers in Tri-Cities. Lourdes in Pasco, Kadlec in Richland and Kennewick, and KGH. Kennewick Fire Captain Eric Nilson says it's not about location, but what kind of injury you have and who's best-equipped to handle it.

"What is most likely the cause of the problem. Based on that, that will put them into an algorithm," Nilson says.

That algorithm dictates which hospital will give you the best care.

"For example, Kadlec is the level one cardiac center in the area, Kennewick is the highest level pediatric center in the area, so it really depends on the person's emergency," he added.

But Captain Nilson says sometimes, people refuse to go to certain hospitals. Paramedics generally won't fight you on it.

"The most important thing at that point is just to get them to the hospital," he says.

These patients may end up transferred to another hospital that can suit their needs better.

David says, he just didn't want to be slapped with a thousand-dollar ambulance fee or procedures not covered by insurance.

"In the end, it's all about money. Unfortunately that's the way it is," he says.

Paramedics say when it comes to simple injuries like cuts and bruises, all of the centers in the area are equipped to handle them.

It's when you get into the more serious injures like heart attacks and brain aneurysm where choosing the right hospital could mean life or death.