Dallas paramedics will begin to answer some calls in sport utility vehicles Jan. 1 as part of an efficiency plan to make better use of ambulances.
The new plan will save ambulances for the most serious calls. Currently, Dallas dispatches ambulances to all medical calls. Fire engines are often sent as well and frequently arrive before the ambulance.
But a large percentage of calls don't require advanced care or transportation to hospitals, said Dr. Paul Pepe, director of the city's emergency medical services.
The new plan will assign paramedics full-time on five engines in outlying areas. Two paramedic SUVs will be posted downtown and on the south side areas with high-call volume, but few cases that require a ride to the hospital.
Officials said the additional paramedic responders will help keep the ambulances available for more serious medical emergencies such as heart attacks and strokes.
Pepe said the goal is to improve the level of care by increasing response time and improve efficiency by not sending ambulances when they are not needed.
Several City Council members said at a Public Safety Committee meeting Monday that they worried citizens would overuse the SUV paramedics and that the plan will cost more in the long run than it will save.
"I do not like this program at all, period, etched in stone," Councilman Mitchell Rasansky said.
Most city leaders supported a 90-day test that begins Jan. 1. The plan could expand if it is successful.
Here's a link to the information presented to the Public Safety Committee: