D.C. Fire and EMS Department (FEMS) ambulances will no longer be offered to every individual that contacts 911 unless their injuries are considered serious by emergency responders.
According to officials, the move is part of the District’s “Right Care, Right Now” program, which is aiming to free up D.C.’s resources and emergency room beds at hospitals for real emergencies.
“If your condition is an urgent, life-threatening or potentially life-threatening emergency, the 911 center (Office of Unified Communications) will dispatch FEMS first responders who will assess your symptoms, transport you to the hospital directly, or determine whether American Medical Response (AMR), the Department’s third-party provider, should transport you to the hospital,” the program explains.
For a condition which is not a medical emergency, the person will be “(1) transferred to the Right Care, Right Now line and the nurse will assess your symptoms and determine the most appropriate medical care for your condition, OR (2) a FEMS first responder will assess your symptoms and, if you are eligible based on FEMS protocols and guidelines, connect you by phone to the nurse, who will assess your symptoms and determine the most appropriate medical care for your condition.”
Ride-sharing companies like Lyft will also be engaged by the district to arrange transportation to and from community clinics for patients with Medicaid.
“The system that had developed over years was what we call, ‘You call, we haul. So anyone who would call 911, even if it was for a stubbed toe or a toothache, or a rash or a bladder infection, we just took them to the emergency department,” said Dr. Robert Holman, D.C. Fire and EMS’s medical director.
First responders will still attend and respond to 911 calls. However, after reaching the patient, they will decide whether the patient needs treatment in a hospital or a nearby clinic would provide appropriate treatment.
D.C. has the highest per capita 911 call volume in the country, according to officials. The District last year started a 911 nurse triage program which allows registered nurses to determine the condition of patients reaching out for medical assistance via the emergency line.