On average, about 240 million Americans call 911 each year. However, a fair portion of these calls do not involve true emergencies and overload the 911 system. Like this one.
When they got to her place, the woman revealed she didn’t need immediate medical attention—she made the 911 call just to get a free ride.
Luckily, her plan didn’t work out.
Image credits: Tomás Del Coro (not the actual photo)
Image credits: JaeCryme
JaeCryme had worked in EMS for 5 years in varying roles at varying levels of certification. “I made $9 per hour while working in Salt Lake City as an AEMT, and literally broke my back lifting a heavy patient, so I had to quit,” they told Bored Panda. “There’s no typical day in EMS. One day, I was dispatched after 3 minutes on shift… although that ended up being one of the funniest calls of my life, so no regrets.”
Other days, they’d just sit around, cleaning the station, inventorying supplies, etc., “doing nothing and just waiting, only to get our first call just a few minutes before the shift was over.”
There were also shifts when they’d be there longer. “I once ran 38 hours straight,” JaeCryme recalled.
But during that time, the Redditor hadn’t been in many situations like this one. “I personally only had like 3 actual EMS abuse calls in those 5 years—really fake calls like the one I shared—but everyone has these stories.”
Since JaeCryme never followed up on their patients after they dropped them off, they don’t really know what happened to this particular lady after she left the vehicle. “Some medics obsessively want to know their patient outcomes [but] I had a policy of ‘I got them there alive, that’s all that matters to me,'” JaeCryme explained.
In 2016, there was a study that investigated how paramedics view and judge appropriate versus inappropriate ambulance use. The researchers conducted interviews with 19 paramedics working in two regions in southwestern Ontario, Canada, and analyzed them using grounded theory methods.
“While blatantly ‘inappropriate’ use is extraordinary, ‘misuse’ is more common, and paramedics determine misuse largely by interpreting patients’ abilities to cope with their situations,” the study found. “Paramedics assess this using multiple patient attributes: patient’s age, knowledge of the system, system failures, social support available, presence of transportation alternatives, patient’s ability to walk and trial of treatment with home remedies.”
The researchers also noted that ‘inappropriate’ ambulance use has serious repercussions. When non-urgent patients are triaged to lower emergency department (ED) priority, they may have to wait many hours for care. In some cases, the paramedics may need to wait with them, delaying response to other emergency calls, and depriving the paramedics of opportunities for meals, sleep and education. The inappropriate use of EMS drains health system resources and undermines paramedic morale. Furthermore, for non-urgent patients, ED care may be less effective than primary care, and can ultimately delay their appropriate care.
“I’d just add that everyone in EMS shares their funny and frustrating stories as a form of therapy,” JaeCryme said. “The EMS profession has a high rate of suicide and burnout, so it’s cathartic to vent. Even years after leaving service.”
“And I’d also add that the absolute vast majority of calls are legitimate emergencies, or what patients at least perceive as emergencies. With all of the calls for a national healthcare system in the US, I’d rather see ambulances be free for people who need them, and only the wrongdoers be punished.”