FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The way American Ambulance responds to your 911 calls in Fresno County is changing.
As of Monday, only patients with life-threatening and emergency conditions will be transferred to the hospital.
"If you feel like you need to call 911, if your family member is sick and you need to call 911, call 911," said Edgar Escobedo, American Ambulance operations manager. "We are going to be there, we are going to assess that patient and if necessary we are going to transfer that patient."
The new Assess and Refer Policy was implemented Monday to relieve overwhelmed emergency rooms.
Escobedo said instead of transferring patients to a local hospital, paramedics will evaluate them first.
Their condition will then determine if they go to the hospital or if they're referred to an urgent care facility, their primary care doctor, or telemedicine.
But there are exceptions.
"If that patient wants to go to the emergency department or if there is a loved one that wants that patient to go to the emergency department then by all means we are going to take that patient to the emergency department," he said.
Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig said ERs within the county are experiencing a surge of patients with and without COVID.
He said at the moment there simply isn't enough space for patients in emergency rooms.
"We want to make sure that those individuals that are going to the emergency rooms truly need that emergency service there," he said.
But Fresno County isn't the first to implement this kind of policy.
San Bernardino County in southern California adopted the change last month.
Health officials say this could improve capacity at ERs by nearly 25%.
"There are a number of patients in the emergency department waiting for beds to actually be transferred into the hospital waiting for ICU beds because those beds are taken up," said Escobedo.
Magsig said other counties are also looking at implementing the policy. This could include, Madera, Tulare, and Kings Counties.
American Ambulance will only transport Fresno County 911 callers who have life-threatening or emergency conditions
Instead of transferring patients to a local hospital, paramedics will evaluate them first.
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