WASHINGTON (ABC7) — Far too many of the ambulances you see on streets in the District are transporting patients to hospitals when they should be going to doctor's offices instead.
"The DC Fire and EMS Department has one of the highest call volumes in the country," Chief Gregory M. Dean said.
Mayor Muriel Bowser is now launching a program in an effort to free up emergency rooms and ambulances for those who really need them.
"We are going to put a system in place where everyone is getting what they need," Bowser said.
Nurses will take calls from patients in D.C.'s 911 Call Center to determine the seriousness of their illness or injury.
When a call comes in from someone who is determined to be a low level emergency, the caller will be directed to a nurse who will then ask a series of questions.
"I need to ask you a few questions so I can better help you," one nurse said.
The nurse will determine the best treatment and whether a clinic or doctor's office is the best option. Then, the nurse will book the appointment and send a ride to get the caller to the doctor.
Twenty-three sites citywide will handle callers at neighborhood clinics or urgent care centers. The goal is to free up those trained to deal with the critically ill or injured to do their jobs.
"It will be convenient for a lot of people in the neighborhood that don't have transportation," D.C. resident Mary Otey-Smith said.