“Everett firefighters in trouble for leaving homeless man under bridge” was a recent TV station story up in my neck of the woods. You can watch the story here, and read more of the details here.
Of course, the Monday morning quarterbacks are out in full force, condemning or supporting the decisions of the crew, criticizing the level of discipline administered by the fire chief and the waste of taxpayer dollars in responding to this frequent flyer.
Make no mistake, I question the engine captain’s decision to load up a drunken guy and drop him off alone in the toolies (ahem…in another fire department response district). There must have been better options.
I know how frustrating it is to deal with frequent flyers who can’t, or won’t help themselves. Back in the day I dealt with my fair share, including one woman suffering from agoraphobia who called us 10 times in an 8 hour period. As a newly minted EMS captain, I had to come up with a creative strategy in helping her gain access to appropriate treatment, instead of the resentful band aid care of tired engine company crews and paramedics. Only after several days of inter-agency and medical provider discussions were we able to get her the suitable help she needed, and lo’ and behold the calls stopped.
The fire service can be its own worst enemy. Cats in trees, removing heads stuck in playground equipment, running cardiac arrest protocols, rescuing livestock, cutting people out of cars, cutting rings off fingers, you name it, we do it. Yet, we continue to use a response system developed in the early 70’s, when doctors made house calls, families took care of their own with gauze, masking tape and magazines, and funeral homes ran local ambulance services. Today, a minor rash may trigger a call to 911 for help. When are we going to figure out that things have to change?
Some departments are changing how they do things. With a proud nod to my career alma mater, the Bellingham Fire Department recently implemented their Community Paramedic Program , intended to deal with the exact type of situations confounding the Everett, Washington Fire Department. The Los Angeles Fire Department has taken it one step further, deploying nurse practitioners on specially equipment ambulances to help patients with non-emergent medical and social support needs.
With the reductions and elimination of mental health and substance abuse programs across the US, it’s high time governments get on board with implementing creative response programs to take the pressure off of frustrated hose jockeys, paramedics and dispatchers
(Note: as you can tell I haven’t posted in a while. The epic summer up here in the PNW kept calling me outdoors. So, a little summer sabbatical was thoroughly enjoyed. I’m now hopefully back in the blogging grove.)