WASHINGTON - FOX 5 has learned the use of private ambulance to transport patients suffering from minor medical emergencies in the District will begin on March 28 and will operate 18 hours a day.
FOX 5 has obtained a copy of the general order sent out to all firefighters and paramedics laying out the protocols for what are called third party transport, explaining in detail exactly how officials see the service performing.
According to the order, the first ambulances will hit the street at 7 a.m. and remain in service until 1 a.m. the next day.
The protocols say the EMTs in the private ambulance will respond to the call on lights and siren and arrive within ten minutes. The patient then has the right to request a certain hospital, which is opposite of the protocol now.
Pediatric, OB/GYN and patients under arrest are excluded from going in the private ambulances. Firefighters have been told to be friendly, but firm with patients when explaining the new protocols.
The general order spelling out the protocols for the new service says D.C. Fire and EMS personnel will respond to every call, and upon arrival will assess the patient and determine if their condition is minor enough to be transported to a hospital in the ambulances provided by American Medical Response.
According to the protocols, patients with chest pain, overdoses, burns, imminent child birth and severe allergic reactions are just some of the conditions that D.C. Fire and EMS personnel will continue to care for.
The private ambulances with two trained EMTs on board will handle basic emergencies like cuts and sprained ankles.
"A lot of our members are still apprehensive as we go into this because they are feeling like, 'Are we abandoning the patient when we give them to AMR' and the same thing for the citizens," said D.C. Fire and EMS Chief Gregory Dean. "And the reality is no - what is happening here is we are an emergency response agency, we have an opportunity to treat the patient, make sure the patient is stable, turn that patient over to somebody who has the same training as them, to transport the patient so they can get back in service and to respond to other alarms within their district. So the public is going to have to get comfortable with it. Our members are going to have to get comfortable with it."
In fact, in the general order, there are five paragraphs of suggested responses when patients want to know why D.C. Fire and EMS is not taking them to the hospital. One of them says firefighters should tell patients that the private ambulance will get them to the hospital, which frees up firefighters and paramedics for other emergency calls.