Emergency Health Maxed Out… Again

Surge in Respiratory Illnesses Triggers Reimplementation of EMS Assess and Refer Policy

FRESNO, CA- The Fresno County Department of Public Health (FCDPH) is reminding residents to only use Emergency Medical Services (EMS) when they are experiencing a life or limb-threatening emergency. The FCDPH and the Central California Emergency Medical Services Agency (CCEMSA) are urging the public that if they DO NOT HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY, to avoid the use of an ambulance and the hospital emergency room and instead seek care at their primary care physician’s office, urgent care clinics, or use telehealth through their insurance carrier.

Fresno County is seeing a sharp rise in respiratory illnesses caused by many circulating viruses, including the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), Influenza, and COVID-19. The increased activity of these respiratory viruses is stretching local hospital resources for both adults and children. Regional hospitals are also being challenged with traumas and other medical issues. As a result, several hospitals in our area are working over capacity and their emergency rooms are close to disaster levels. The FCDPH and CCEMSA are reimplementing the EMS Assess and Refer Policy to reduce the impact of patients on the local emergency departments and to increase the availability of ambulances.

“The County has implemented the Assess and Refer Policy to slow down the surge of non-emergency patients at hospital emergency departments. Ambulances will respond and assess patients. If it is determined that the patient is stable, and does not require emergent transport, the ambulance personnel will provide an appropriate alternate recommendation and not transport the patient by ambulance,” says Dan Lynch, EMS Director.

If individuals have an emergency medical condition, always call 911 or go to the nearest hospital, but be prepared to expect delays in ambulance response to non-emergent medical problems and expect significant delays if seeking non-emergency care at the hospital emergency room. If someone is showing any of the signs below, they should seek emergency medical care immediately:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Gray or blue color to tongue, lips, or skin
  • Inability to wake or stay awake

Prevention measures are key to help stop the spread of respiratory viruses. The FCDPH recommends that individuals take the following steps to protect themselves and their family this winter season:

  1. Get vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 and influenza to reduce the risk of severe illness and death. People who test positive for COVID-19 are encouraged to seek treatment. For a list of local Test-To-Treat locations, please visit www.fcdph.org/testtotreat.
  2. Stay home if you are sick.
  3. Wear a mask in crowded indoor public places.
  4. Wash your hands frequently, with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
  5. Cover your cough or sneeze into your elbow, arm, or disposable tissue.

For information on local flu activity and weekly updates, please visit www.fcdph.org/flu. For information on local COVID-19 vaccine sites and testing locations, please visit www.fcdph.org/covid19.