Baltimore’s busy public ambulance service went out on more than 150,000 calls last year, responding to everything from car accidents to heart attacks. About 2,000 of those calls were from the same 91 people, including one person who called 107 times, reports the city’s Sun. Officials fear the high frequency of calls from a small number of people means this group is using 911 because they lack transportation or insurance – and the result is worse care for them and higher costs for the city.
“A lot of them are using the fire department as the doctor,” said Kathleen Westcoat, President of Baltimore Healthcare Access, Inc. “They call 911 and they know the ambulance will come, because it has to.” Yesterday, the city announced a program to cut down on the repeat calls and provide the callers with better health care. Called Operation Care, the approach will help the patients get health insurance, and will also connect them with a range of other services, including disease management programs and homeless shelters, that officials hope will improve patients’ health. “We want to get these people better healthcare so they don’t call 911 so much,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Baltimore’s commissioner of health.