New protocol allowing firefighters to leave scene to be tested

New protocol allowing firefighters to leave scene to be tested

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — All members of the Medical Control Board voted to start testing a pilot program that would allow Charlotte firefighters to leave the scene of a call if the patient is OK and MEDIC is already on its way.

"You call 911 and you're going to get a red truck coming pretty fast in a short time frame,” said CFD Chief Reginald Johnson. “But there are non-emergency calls -- foot injuries, back injuries where the person is in a stable place at home but still wants to be transported to the emergency room. That could be one of those type of calls."

[ALSO READ: Program reduces number of ambulance transports for minor emergencies]

Content Continues Below

Johnson said the new protocol would free up his firefighters, so they can respond to more serious, life-threatening calls, like cardiac arrests, car wrecks and seizures.

Charlotte resident Shay Morgan suffered a seizure and said it required a response from first responders.

"They actually took me to the emergency room and I actually had to stay in the hospital a couple of days," said Morgan.

A seizure is one example of when firefighters would never leave a patient. Other examples include if a patient was under 18, was showing signs of an allergic reaction, was the victim of an assault, or complained of chest pain.

There is a list of other criteria.

However, if everything checks out and the patient is physically and mentally OK, has access to a phone, and is in a safe location, a firefighter could ask if they could leave and respond to a more serious call.

The patient would have to agree. A firefighter would stay if the patient asked them to.

"We really need to sit down with MEDIC and talk about what those 'safe' environments are and what protocols will be,” Johnson said. “But I think this will be a good tool for all first responders."

The fire chief told Channel 9 his department will start rolling out the pilot program sometime next year, likely after the Republican National Convention.

“We want to test this on a very small population of patients that we already know are low acuity,” MEDIC Deputy Director Jonathan Studnek said. “Less than 5% of our patient population today will likely be involved in a test scenario."

Studnek said MEDIC and CFD will be the first in the state to try out the new protocol. He said both organizations have spoken with the North Carolina Office of EMS and they support the plan.

"I think that would be absolutely appropriate,” said Morgan when asked if the new protocol was something she’d support. “Consider if they did all their checks that I'm OK first. Yes, especially if they were to have a trauma 1, that's important for them to get there."