Fla. county’s community paramedicine program would address ‘frequent flyers’

County believes dealing with its 15 “frequent flyers” one-on-one is its most cost-effective option

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. — A recurring problem in any ambulance service is the thousands of dollars spent on repeat callers with non-emergency problems. One Florida county is considering a paramedicine program to curb 911 abuse.

Many “frequent flyers” call 911 because they simply don’t know where else to turn. They use the EMS system as their primary care, tying up resources for patients who may actually need urgent attention.

Flagler County Fire Chief Don Petito tells the Palm Coast Observer that his responders deal with 15 repeat callers on a regular basis. These people have contacted EMS for problems like their water going out, or simply because they were lonely.

For liability reasons, EMTs can’t turn down the calls or refuse to transport these patients. At the same time, these callers run up huge bills that they cannot pay — such as one offender who’s been transported 60 times at a cost of nearly $70,000.

The solution to 911 abuse may be a proposed community paramedicine program that could help repeat callers without taking them to the ER, Petito said.

A paramedic, among other medical staff, would visit frequent callers and help connect them with the primary and preventative health resources they need. This would free up EMS resources to deal with more urgent patient calls.

A frequent criticism of community paramedicine is that the program doesn’t make money, but officials say that the $77,500 it would take to staff the paramedic position would still be cheaper than the $830,000 it would take to hire additional staff and equip new ambulances.

“We’re going go to that home and make sure they’re taking their medication,” Petito said. “We’re going to make sure they’ve been in contact with their physician … on a regular rotation.”

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