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Avoiding the Emergency Room

At $355 a run, dispatching an ambulance in Richmond, Va., unnecessarily can be pricey, not to mention dangerous should a true emergency arise and no other...
by | July 9, 2008

At $355 a run, dispatching an ambulance in Richmond, Va., unnecessarily can be pricey, not to mention dangerous should a true emergency arise and no other ambulances are available. To use its resources more wisely, the Richmond Ambulance Authority diverts all non life-threatening 911 calls, such as a toothache or a child's fever, to an emergency-room nurse, who offers medical advice and educates callers about local resources they can turn to before dialing 911. The Community Health Access Program, which typically handles between six and a dozen calls a shift, draws on community services to divert emergency-room visits that include free clinics, urgent-care locations and state-sponsored mobile dental clinics. Nurses make follow-up calls the next day, and continue to check in as needed. Since the program was fully implemented in 2006, it has diverted more than 750 people from the emergency room and saved more than $265,000 -- the cost of four part-time nurses. The program, which is the only one of its kind in the United States, receives 25 percent of its funding from the city, and still charges callers who insist on talking to a nurse the $355 transport fee. To learn more, contact the RAA at 804-254-1150.

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