Ambulance services in Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties are under a new policy to only transport patients in life-threatening situations. It’s a response to the surge in COVID-19 cases that is overwhelming hospital staff.
Dan Lynch, emergency services manager at the Fresno County Department of Public Health, said the new policy will help decrease the number of unnecessary emergency visits to hospitals. Lynch said paramedics and EMT’s will look for specific vital signs first.
“[If] they don’t have any primary medical conditions or priority medical conditions like chest pain or difficulty breathing, or something that requires an evaluation, an urgent evaluation at an emergency department,” Lynch said those patients will instead be referred to their own doctor or to urgent care.
The policy just went into effect Monday and within the first day, about 50 people were referred. Ambulances typically respond to about 500 calls per day in all four counties.
“We also expect that as paramedics and EMT’s get used to the policy, we’re going to see that number increase and hopefully, people out in the public realize that maybe utilizing an emergency department for a non-emergency problem is probably not the best decision,” he said.
The policy will remain in place until hospitals have more capacity to deal with emergencies. In the meantime, the Fresno County Coroner’s office has responded to the surge by expanding its morgue space, adding a mobile refrigeration trailer that can hold an additional 50 bodies if needed.