Q: I called an ambulance because my tummy hurt. Why did you send a fire truck too? Everyone seems to be just standing around…
A: First of all, that one out there happens to be a fire engine.
Without getting into all kinds of geeky details, when plans were being drawn up decades ago, simply put, EMS was meant to be used for REAL medical problems that required very quick responses and lots of hands on scene. For instance, if you suddenly drop dead, that’s when EMS is at its most efficient and (hopefully) effective. If you’ve ever worked a salvageable cardiac arrest, it is obvious to any moron with half a brain that it is a very labor-intensive process requiring a lot of people.
Thus, in a typical ideal scenario, a fire apparatus, usually an engine dispatched from one of the strategically located (lots of history behind this) fire station, provides critical first response, such as early CPR and early defibrillation, and an ambulance provides paramedic-level transport.
At least, that is the intention.
That EMS now appears to be complete overkill is very much the result of the absolute stupidity of those using EMS and not so much the intention of system designers. In other words, the perceived inefficiency of EMS is due more to its misuse/abuse than to its design. We appear to not do anything important (subjectively) precisely because people do not call us for anything important (objectively).
However, just because people call us for all kinds of stupidity doesn’t mean we can reduce staffing; some people still call us for some really serious stuff. Just because no one went into cardiac arrest today doesn’t mean we can reduce staffing tomorrow. (The politicians, ever so wise, love this one – “You guys don’t do anything.” and “It won’t affect response times.”) We’re here for the bad things that MAY happen. Remember that when you feel like opening your stupid mouth and saying something when I’m getting a cup of fucking coffee.
In conjunction with public education – admittedly done poorly, so far – the system must be built to accommodate the huge amount of stupid calls, lest the legitimate patients suffer the consequences of EMS misuse/abuse.
Lastly, tummy pain? Next time drive your own ass to the hospital.