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Oklahoma City Council wants to cut unnecessary emergency responses

Oklahoma City Council members want to put a stop to some nursing homes and assisted living centers taking advantage of city emergency services to do tasks they should be doing themselves.
BY MICHAEL KIMBALL Modified: April 25, 2012 at 10:27 am •  Published: April 25, 2012

As Oklahoma City looks to cut back on unnecessary runs on medical calls by its firefighters, city council members expressed a strong desire Tuesday to make sure senior care centers aren't abusing the availability of city emergency services.

The city is in the process of merging its fire dispatch system with that of the Emergency Medical Services Authority, which manages the ambulance service in Oklahoma City, Tulsa and many suburbs. Part of the reason is to reduce overlapping responses when both firefighters and EMSA paramedics are dispatched to minor emergencies.

But Councilman Gary Marrs, a former city fire chief, said Tuesday the city should study how to make nursing homes and assisted living centers pay for calls that prove to be an abuse of the system.

Marrs said some unscrupulous senior living centers call 911 to get firefighters to perform tasks that their own staffs should be doing.

“In my opinion, it's because the homes, the centers, will not staff to the level they need to be staffing at, and they don't staff to the level of experience or certification or whatever it takes to do what they're being paid to do,” Marrs said. “I know that the system — the fire and EMSA system — will tell you that the owners and the operators of these homes have learned what key words to say when they call in so there's no way that we cannot respond.”

False calls alleged

Some centers repeatedly call 911 reporting possible heart attacks, but when firefighters arrive it's clear the center wants them “to do nothing more than put people back in bed,” Marrs said.

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