The Anaheim Fire Department is delivering non-emergency medical services as part of a pilot program that is the first of its kind in California, officials said Wednesday.
Nearly one-third of 911 calls made in the city last year were for medical needs that were not urgent, Anaheim fire and rescue officials say.
Now, rather than treat and transport, the Community Care Response Unit (CCRU) will become a mobile clinic on wheels.
Nurse practitioner Victoria Morrison says she can give medicine, prescribe medicine and even stitch up wounds in the field.
"Most people cooperate. They really don't want to go to the ER," she said.
The goal is to cut down on emergency room overload. Doctors say it can be a seasonal issue.
"During the winter flu season, the wait can be hours - six, seven, eight hours - for low-level issues," Kaiser Permanente Dr. Nancy Gin said.
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Organizers say in the first 30 days of service the CCRU was able to keep four out of 10 patients from going to the hospital, allowing advanced life-saving ambulances to be routed to true emergencies.
Officials expect to save money, too. A routine 911 call to the emergency room can run thousands of dollars. An in-home call with the CCRU costs about $350.
Anaheim residents have the option on their water bill to pay an annual $36 fee for paramedic services which would include the new ambulance.