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Washington, DC turns to private ambulances to alleviate high demand

To supplement a system that ran out of available ambulances on a daily basis, Washington, D.C., in March began using a private commercial service to transport patients with less-serious symptoms to the hospital, according to The Washington Post.

The new system aims to reserve city ambulances and medics for more dire cases and support the Fire and EMS Department, which has been struggling to manage an increasing number of calls. City paramedics and fire fighters still respond to each 911 call and evaluate each patient's condition. However, if appropriate, they will call an ambulance from the private company American Medical Response to take over. In more serious cases, the city medics transport patients to the hospital as usual.

In its first week, 678 of the 2,135 people brought to the hospital — or 32 percent of the cases — were transported by AMR. D.C. Fire Chief Gregory M. Dean, who proposed the plan, was generally pleased with this rate. He said the district's medics could have used the AMR ambulances and medics in hundreds more cases, but they are still adjusting to the change, according to the report.

"My initial assessment is, even though our people have been a little bit shy, is that they are embracing this," Mr. Dean told The Washington Post. "We are not running out of units as quickly, we are achieving our mission and we have a lot of training going on."

Under the new protocols, certain patients are still brought to the hospital by the city's paramedics, even if their condition is not serious. They include anyone under 18, any pregnancy-related issues, anyone in law enforcement custody or anyone in need of a mental health evaluation, according to the report.

AMR has experienced some glitches of its own, according to the report. The company ran out of available ambulances six times in its first 10 days of the effort.

More articles on patient flow:
Milwaukee hospitals implement new policy on ambulance diversions
Patient first care: Is your hospital really delivering?
Patient flow talk of the town at AONE & AORN

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