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Fort Worth fire crews resume joining medical calls

Fort Worth fire crews resume joining calls for medical care
Fort Worth fire crews resume joining calls for medical care 01:47

FORT WORTH ( – Fort Worth fire crews have started rolling out again on some lower priority medical calls, a change requested after concerns a new prioritization system from the MedStar ambulance system may leave some people waiting too long for assistance.

The fire department will receive notification now for more than 30 additional situations, determined by a medical dispatcher. They include certain calls for allergies, burns, diabetic problems, overdoses and falls.

Fire Chief Jim Davis has also given his staff freedom to determine if fire response is needed on any 911 calls that roll over to the department, allowing them to dispatch a fire crew depending on the circumstances, time of day and location.

Adding fire personnel back to the calls comes after an April update to the city council on a new prioritization plan from MedStar. Designed to save resources for the most urgent calls, it reduced the number of calls in that category by 30 percent, and improved response time by about 30 seconds.

The Fort Worth Professional Firefighters Association said at the time the change caused a dramatic drop in the number of calls for some fire stations. Some firefighters also began noting calls where patients were waiting for an ambulance to respond, while nearby fire stations were unaware of the call, or conditions changed during the wait and the call became a higher priority.

"We have identified 10 or 12 call types that really seem to make sense we move the pendulum back toward the middle," Davis said.

An analysis from the Office of the Medical Director determined it might add back about 45 calls a day city-wide that firefighters would respond to. 

That analysis also found that from 2019 to 2022, less than 1% of the type of calls added back, have needed a critical, life-saving intervention.

Sherman Dedrick, the director of governmental affairs for the Fort Worth Professional Firefighters Association Local 440, said the adjustment was a start, but he expected more calls may need to be added to the list. 

"To those citizens, it's an emergency, and they deserve to get someone there in their time of need," he said.

Faster treatment on a non-priority call, he said, may prevent it from escalating or from needed a paramedic response at all.

The reprioritization for calls doesn't prevent fire departments for any city in the MedStar system, from going on any calls they want to go to.

Davis said reports were being reviewed daily and that he expected the response process would continue to be refined.

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