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Charlotte Area News

Medic To Begin Tailoring Emergency Response To Severity Of Complaint

Emergency medical responders in Mecklenburg County are changing their one response-fits-all calls approach. Medic gets 100,000 calls a year and a vast majority of them aren't exactly life-threatening situations. "We're talking earaches, stubbed toes, things of that nature," says Jeff Keith the agency's deputy director. But those inconveniences get the same response as someone in cardiac arrest: an ambulance with a paramedic trained in advanced life-saving. The only option is whether to send that ambulance with lights and sirens on. Keith says that uniform response to calls has the potential to create some problems and waste money. "If we send paramedics to a stubbed toe and in the vicinity of where that paramedic just left to go answer that call somebody goes into cardiac arrest, I have just moved the best resource available to respond to that life-threatening situation to send them to something that is anything but life-threatening," says Keith. Medic is testing out ways it can prevent that from happening by deploying a handful of ambulances staffed with EMTs, technicians trained in basic medical intervention, as opposed to paramedics. Dispatchers will also be able to give callers with minor complaints a second option. "Like maybe they just have a headache or an earache, it could be, 'Hey, I could send a unit out in an ambulance no problem, but would you like to speak to a nurse instead.' 'Well, sure I'd like to speak to a nurse,'" says Keith. Medic plans to begin trying out the program in the fall. There are no estimates of how much the new approach could save. Most of the agency's money comes from private insurance and Medicaid, but the county contributes about $15 million a year.