Anaheim's pilot project offers medical care to those calling 911

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Anaheim is trying out a new way of delivering emergency medical care to people who call 911. (KABC)

Anaheim is trying out a new way of delivering emergency medical care to people who call 911.

The pilot project is a first in California. It involves dispatching what's called a "Community Care Response Unit" to non-urgent 911 calls in the Anaheim area.

The unit -- in a CARE ambulance -- is stocked with medical supplies and equipment, such as an I-Stat blood analysis machine, which can test blood on the spot.

The ambulance is staffed by an Anaheim Fire Captain/Paramedic and a Nurse Practitioner.

"The look on the peoples' faces that they don't have to go to the ER, and we're actually treating them in their house, has been indescribable," said Scott Fox, an Anaheim Fire Captain/Paramedic.

The ability to diagnose and treat low-level emergencies on the spot eliminates the need to transport someone to the hospital and helps free up the hospital's Emergency Room for more urgent medical problems.

"Forty percent of the patients that we have come in contact with, we have been able to treat and release and been able to refer to their primary or specialized physician," said Anaheim Fire Chief & Rescue Randy Bruegman.

Bruegman said it also helps keep Anaheim Fire engines and equipment available for more serious medical or fire-related emergencies.

Anaheim started working on the program three years ago, modeling it after one in Mesa, Arizona.

Authorities say 85 percent of the 911 calls made are medical-related in Anaheim. While several thousand patients a year didn't need to go to the Emergency Room, that was the only place to take them -- until now.

"We've seen everything from an allergic reaction to a lot of elderly falls and lacerations," said nurse practitioner Victoria Morrison. "I had a patient who had a vision problem, she saw stars and I got her in contact with an ophthalmologist within half an hour."

The pilot project involves a public-private partnership including Anaheim Fire & Rescue, Kaiser Permanente, CARE Ambulance, and Metro Cities Fire Authority (or Metro Net) in coordination with OC Emergency Medical Services.

In Mesa, Arizona, where the program has existed for the past few years, emergency room wait times dropped from several hours to 30 minutes, said Dr. Gary Smith, the supporting physician for Mesa Arizona Fire & Medical Department.

"In 2014, in the city of Mesa, we've been able to save over $4 million in healthcare expense," said Smith.

Anaheim hopes to see similar positive results.

"I think it's great as long as it's not affecting the overall health of a person in that situation," said Orange County resident Mike Flores.

Officials say the nurse practitioner follows up with each patient within 72 hours to make sure they're doing OK.

The pilot program costs $500,000 and will last one year before deciding whether to continue.

Related Topics:
healthmedical emergencyhealth careAnaheimOrange County
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