SAN ANTONIO - Just because you call 9-1-1 for an ambulance in San Antonio doesn't mean you'll get a ride to the hospital. The fire department is trying to cut down on ambulance transports that aren't really emergencies.
You could get charged just for EMS responding and evaluating you, even if they decide your injury isn't serious enough to be transported.
That's what happened to Terry Crisafulli, In May he called 9-1-1 for an ambulance because of an infection in his foot.
“It puffed out really bad and basically my whole foot started getting red and about double the size," Crisafulli told News 4.
Crisafulli says he couldn't walk or take a bus and had no one to give him a ride to the hospital. He says EMS suggested he take a taxi and then leave.
“They came over here, looked at me, and said they got better things to do, take a cab," Crisafulli says.
The San Antonio Fire Department said it couldn't comment on Crisafulli’s case due to medical privacy but says its dispatchers and crews must prioritize the 900 to a thousand calls they receive each day.
“If we transported every single person that called, we'd tap out our system. That's just the reality of it so we have to prioritize those things and try to keep our ambulances in service to transport those that really need it," said San Antonio Fire Department Public Information Officer Joe Arrington.
The fire department says if a caller has no one to drive them to the hospital EMS can give them a voucher to pay for a taxi.
However, the caller can still receive a bill for the onsite evaluation and any treatment at the scene. Crisafulli's bill was for a hundred dollars.
“People need to be advised if they deny you you're going to get hit with a charge," Crisafulli said.
“It gets us back in service faster, it gets our crews in service to treat those true priority emergencies, and it gets you the care you need without having to incur that unnecessary ambulance bill," Arrington said.
The fire department says prioritizing calls has prevented more than 5,876 unnecessary ambulance trips so far this year, which saves taxpayers money.
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