Want an Ambulance? Too Bad

City Hall may dictate whether or not you need an ambulance in an emergency situation. A recent proposal by City Controller Alan Butkovitz calls for nurses to be placed in Philadelphia’s 911 call center to give care over the phone for non-emergencies, in an effort to save the city millions of dollars.

"You're going to have City Hall bureaucrats determining who gets health care? God forbid something terrible happens. The city would be exposed to tremendous liability," Brett Mandel, Butkovitz’s opponent in May’s Democratic primary election told the Philadelphia Daily News.

Butkovitz claims the plan would lead to faster ambulance response times, save 19,000 EMS trips annually and save the city up to $2.6 million a year, according to the paper.

Patient care would be “prioritized” based on severity—those needing immediate attention, those who can wait and those who can be “persuaded” not to ask for an ambulance at all, the paper reported.

Victims of shootings, stabbings, cardiac patients and people with breathing problems would always have an ambulance dispatched, Butkovitz said.  But, if you call 911 with flu like symptoms or cuts, you’ll only talk to a nurse who would take down your symptoms. 

If you demand an ambulance, but are not deemed by the call center as a severe case, you’ll be on the lower-priority list for EMS teams, Butkovitz said.

The plan was not discussed with Mayor Michael Nutter.

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