No Spinning Lights For YOU!


If you’re in the Fort Worth, Texas area and you call an ambulance for your influenza symptoms, your ride to the hospital may not have the red spinning lights on it.

In order to respond to the threefold increase in ambulance calls from patients with influenza-like symptoms, Medstar Ambulance Service is considering a change in policy where patients are evaluated after a call and then told that they “don’t need to go to the hospital.” If the patients still insist on transport, they won’t be taken to the hospital by ambulance. Instead, Medstar will arrange a taxi ride – and not necessarily to the hospital, either. Patients might get taken to an emergency clinic instead.

Oh, and when they’re discharged they’ll still have to find a ride home.


  1. Yeah…gotta love the people who arrive via EMS for things like a pregnancy test and the proceed to cuss you out when you tell them that they can’t have an ambulance ride home (or a taxi voucher).

  2. as a volunteer EMT in my community, I can only say I wish our Paramedics had the right to do this.

    It would also be nice to live in a town big enough that a taxi was an option. The calls to take people from the hospital to their homes are getting old.

  3. It’s about time! When gas prices were high people pulled this stunt all the time. If Medstar were ever to get sued for taking a stand like this, I’d gladly be the first to chip in and donate to defray the legal costs. Good for them!

  4. I personally think ALS units should have an MD/DO or PA/NP ride along to perform a brief medical screening exam at the scene. If they do not have a possible emergency, they should hand them a list of local clinics/MD’s offices and send them on their way. Paying them for this would be cheaper than all the ambulance rides cost. I just hope the patients don’t get Press-Ganeys. Everyone would be pretty pissed off that they did not get their free ride.

    • Agree.
      I remember reading that some countries already have physician ride-alongs. Just can’t find which ones.
      Would be interesting pilot concept — in many states gross negligence against EMS must be proven, not just simple negligence, so liability would be less of a concern.

      • I know that in Germany, EMS and physicians work together much more closely. I don’t know if there are physicians on every ambulance, but they are much more readily available in the field.

    • not sure i agree with that…liabilty and malpractice are much higher for physicians and midlevels…not to mention ems personnel are generally better at triage…

  5. Melissa (oddharmonic) on

    That’s the second interesting news story I’ve heard about MedStar in the past few weeks. Last month they launched a pilot program that sends medical staff (I think the original story I read said a PA, but the article link has since expired) to nine identified frequent callers’ homes to evaluate and treat them without transport. An October article on the program said it could save MedStar from adding $500,000 to their budget and they’ve identified another three people to participate in the program.

    Here’s the October article that states 911 calls from the nine participants went down by 77 percent in the first month of the program: MedStar program sends paramedic to homes of some repeat callers before they dial 911

  6. I think that EMS in the Netherlands are more like to have physicians riding along. At least in larger urban areas. I wonder how it has changed the equation?

  7. There’s two sides to this coin; one is as stated. The other, though, is EMS refusing transport to someone that needs to be transported, and the providers not recognizing that (as I was a paramedic for 9 years, I can say this: why does someone become a paramedic? Because EMT is too hard to spell!).

    I may have found a utopia, though – where I am now, people don’t ask/beg/demand for drugs or a bus ticket, apologize for coming in with a sore throat on a Sunday morning, and, when I asked the boss about Press-Ganey, he said (sincerely), “What’s that?” And this is not a “rich” area – in fact, it’s the poorest in the state.

  8. Hope the taxi drivers have their flu shot!

    It sounds like a good idea. Too bad they can’t do it everywhere when *obviously* not an emergent call… so they are free to pick up the serious ones.

    And too bad more people don’t realize how they are abusing the system.

    Whatever happened to using logic and common sense?

  9. 13 years ago when I was in Okinawa it was my understanding on the mainland the Japanese would have physicians on their ambulances. They would show up with all the equipment and resuscitate the patient. Then they’d have to find a hospital to accept the patient. God help us if we did this here – it would make the current fun-filled game of “take my transfer, please” seem like child’s play.

  10. Brenda Helverson on

    This is a very bad idea. Medical evaluations should be performed or under the direct supervision of a licensed physician. This policy is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

  11. Brenda, the EMT-B or paramedics actually already perform a medical evaluation when 911 is called. Not all medical evaluations need to be performed under the supervision of a physician – and I say this as a physician. Some do, but some don’t.

    There are a lot of morons in the world, and for some reason they seem to seek out the health care system more often. Ambulances are used as taxis in many parts of the country.

    I think this is a great idea to try out – I’m sure there will be kinks, but I’m glad someone is doing it!!!

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