Flu Leads to More 911 Calls

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    NEWSLETTERS

    MedStar says it is receiving more calls because of the current flu outbreak. (Published Tuesday, Jan 15, 2013)

    Fort Worth's ambulance service says it is seeing a dramatic rise in 911 calls because of the flu.

    MedStar EMS said it averaged 267 calls per day in December, but the average daily call volume in the first nine days of January has been 299 calls -- a 12.1 percent increase. The daily average is also 15.8 percent higher than in January of last year.

    And calls that were potentially flu-related -- for breathing problems, chest pain and for a sick person -- were up by double digits, MedStar said. Calls relating to headaches were up by 111.1 percent.

    "We encourage people to call 911, because if they think they're having an emergency, we really need to respond to them," MedStar spokesman Mike Zavadsky said. "But we may modify the type of response that we're sending to them because of the dramatic increase in call volume."

    MedStar has increased staffing to handle the high volume of calls.

    A screening program that the ambulance service launched last year that sends non-emergency calls to a nurse to determine if the caller needs an ambulance also has seen a sharp increase in activity, MedStar said.

    MedStar said more people in emergency rooms is also affecting response times.

    "Not only has our response volume increased, but many more patients are seeking care in our area emergency rooms overall, which consumes emergency room bed availability," Mike D'Agostino, MedStar director of operations, said in a press release. "This is having a dual impact since it sometimes takes longer for our crews to transfer care to the emergency room staff."

    NBC 5's Ben Russell contributed to this report.