CHARLOTTE — A new Mecklenburg County paramedic response configuration is taking effect on Monday that may have some people waiting longer for an ambulance.
For serious 911 calls, such as cardiac arrests or patients who are unconscious and not breathing, an ambulance should still arrive within 10 minutes and 59 seconds.
MEDIC will respond with lights and sirens to serious calls, but will not use them for non-emergency calls that have minor injuries from a car accident or a general illness. Depending on the type of call, it could take up to 15, 30, 60 or even 90 minutes for an ambulance to come.
MEDIC executive director John Peterson says that dispatchers will let callers know if they should expect a longer response time.
“There is a dispatch script, and once the dispatcher gets to the final determination of how that call is going to be dispatched, they will notify the person if they are a low-acuity response, and may receive a response in under 60 minutes,” Peterson said.
The new plan will also impact all fire departments in Mecklenburg. Firefighters will be going to fewer medical calls and will also be responding to non-emergency calls without lights and sirens.
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Some fire chiefs expressed concerns about not having enough information on the medical calls they still respond to.
Peterson says new tablets were installed in each fire truck so firefighters have access to notes from a 911 caller.
“What that will help them with is on the particular 15-minute calls that are now non-emergencies,” Peterson said. “If they see something in the notes or if our medic sees something in the notes and that causes them concern, they think there is a clinical reason that they should upgrade that to lights and sirens. they have the ability to do that on the truck.”
MEDIC said the changes are not in response to its staffing challenge, but believes the new plan will help make the 911 system more efficient. The plan will also impact all fire departments in Mecklenburg.
Mecklenburg is the first county in the state to make major changes like this to the 911 system. Fort Worth, Texas and Colorado Spring, Colorado
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