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EMS, Patient Care

Yup. Still Barfing

Somewhere along the lines the term “Emergency” has morphed.  I have argued in this forum and others that it is the patient’s definition of “Emergency” that drives the system these days, not ours.  After all, what do we know?

But there has been a third party lurking in the shadows of EMS that has only been empowered by technology.  I am speaking, of course, about the third party caller.

Walking past a man sleeping in a doorway?  Whip out that cell phone and tell 911 that no, you can’t see if he’s breathing and no, you aren’t going to go wake him up. Eww.

Now we’re rolling lights and sirens to a “Man down, unconscious, breathing status unknown” when all you had to do was either keep walking or gently shake them.

Cell phones now allow a person to call 911 from across a crowded room without even making contact and asking a person if the want, or need help.

Case # 14,338,265 in point:  Last night.

Code 3 for the man vomiting.


Crews arrive to find a man vomiting into a trash bag, embarrassed, and waving off rescuers. “I feel horrible, but I’m fine.”

30 minutes later crews are dispatched again for the “recall for the man vomiting.”  As a supervisor I always like to roll on “rekindles” just to make sure everything is on the up and up.  After all, if the man changes his mind and now wants an assessment I need to make sure everything on the first contact was on the up and up.  Part of the way to this call I heard my crew on the radio, “This is the same person who refused assessment earlier, a third party called this in again.”

So a special thanks to the person in the area who called 911 for something that happens all the time without approaching the person to ask if they need help, seeing him refuse Paramedics, THEN CALLING AGAIN.


What should have happened was this:

“911 what’s the location of the life or death emergency?”

“Hi, there’s a guy puking into a bag. I think he needs help.”

“OK, walk over and ask him…I’ll wait.”


That would be so much easier, cheaper and better for all involved.  Instead, my medics hit the doorway and muttered “Yup, still barfing.”

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One Comment

  1. Mike B June 24, 2017 12:18 pm

    Such a great idea that will never take off. Despite millions of 911 calls a day with only a tiny fraction resulting in a lawsuit, our leaders consider this a litigious society waiting for a missed step to result in damages.

    Our refusal form is a full page of boilerplate advice and doom and gloom warnings for the refusing patient. If this were possible for 911 I’d see it going down like this:

    “OK, ask him to come to the phone, yes, your phone…”

    “Sir, can I have your name and date if birth? I’ll need to read this paragraph of advice to you and then you’ll need to acknowledge you understand the consequences of your refusal of an ambulance… First, I’ll need you hold because there are 5 pending 911 calls. ”

    I still like the idea, but way too practical for our business.

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