You shouldn’t be surprised.
Readers from San Jose, California have brought to my attention this piece from NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit, which aired recently about a clinic 213 yards away from an emergency room belonging to the same health system on the same campus AT THE SAME ADDRESS that routinely used 911 as transport instead of just pushing a wheelchair or a gurney over there.
Obviously, those of us who actually work 911 already know that this isn’t really that out of the ordinary. Clinics are some of the worst abusers of 911, along with doctors’ offices, drug rehabs, nursing facilities, staffed elderly living facilities, psychiatric group homes, homeless shelters, schools (where they have nurses), jails (where some even have doctors), etc. When confronted and asked to explain themselves, they always use as their excuse “liability” and “protocol.”
Civilians abuse/misuse 911 too, but they’re civilians, and we don’t expect them to know any better. People who know better don’t misuse 911; they abuse 911.
One of the best parts of the story has got to be Dr. Jeffrey Arnold, the Chief Medical Officer at Santa Clara Valley Health and Hospital System, who claimed with a straight face that he had no idea this was going on at the clinic. He also attempted to shift the blame onto EMS by, more than once, saying that someone could have said something sooner to “medical leadership here,” which is completely laughable as we all know this type of stuff has been plaguing all sorts of EMS systems for a long, long time without anyone in management actually doing anything about it no matter who we in the field complain to, including the press. Watch this story lead to exactly zero improvements.
“I think taking somebody by ambulance is the safest way to transport them,” Dr. Arnold insisted. “It is very typical for large health systems, large campuses, to use 9-1-1 to call for emergency assistance. It did not register as something unusual.”
Except most of these calls are not for emergencies and staff could have just walked them over to the ED, assuming the ED needed to be involved in the first place. I mean, I don’t take an armored car to the bank to deposit money even though it “is the safest way” too; I drive myself. Sometimes I even walk.
I wonder what the ED staff would say about all this. That particular ED is very busy even without this flood of non-emergencies and is so infamous for 2-hour destination delays for ambulances that crews would do anything and everything to avoid transporting patients there.
Now, the EMS director for the county did not respond to questions from the Investigative Unit, and I think that is a huge missed opportunity. Santa Clara County’s EMS Agency even has what is known as EMS Reference 808, which is a document they wrote specifically as a guide for such facilities to interfacility transports. It’s certainly one of the more detailed documents on the subject, and the fact that they even have one is slightly uplifting and somewhat surprising considering the general wussiness of EMS managers everywhere.
Download (PDF, 343KB)
Now if only bureaucrats everywhere would grow some balls and stop giving us so many reasons to dismissively roll our collective eyes at the status quo.