The Mesa Fire Department is getting some national attention for a program that started back in August. It's an idea that may be helping with overcrowded emergency rooms.
For the past six months, a Mesa Fire Captain has been teamed up with a nurse practitioner to respond to low-level emergencies.
The idea is to treat people on the scene so they don't have to go to the ER. They're even writing prescriptions, almost like a primary care provider.
It looks like just another ambulance, but think of this more like an "urgent care" on wheels.
Mesa Fire/Medical teamed up with Mountain Vista Hospital, pairing up Fire Captain Brent Burgett and nurse practitioner Tom Morris to respond to low-level emergencies.
"It's probably a lot more cost effective to do something like this than it is to hire more people in the emergency department and expand emergency departments," says Morris.
We went on a ride-along to see the team in action. We saw one man who called for help after hurting his back while pushing a car.
"I'm going to get some vital signs -- I'm going to get some ice back there -- and I'm going to get you something for pain okay? Sound good? Right on."
After about 20 minutes of treatment, the man was able to walk out of the ambulance, avoiding a trip to the ER.
"As a nurse practitioner I'm able to go into patients' homes, I'm able to go onto the street, the places where emergencies happen or urgencies happen -- and deliver care there as opposed to in the hospital emergency department."
It also frees up the other firefighters to respond to more serious calls.
"Cardiac arrests, strokes, all the very high urgency calls -- these engines and ladders are going to be available because we're on a low-level emergency that they may have been tied up on," says Burgett.
Nearly 80 percent of the departments' calls are for medical cases.
Fire departments from other states have been looking at this program to see how it works. The city will test the program out for about a year and then evaluate to see if it will be a permanent set-up.
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