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Is a lift assist a community emergency?

February 19, 2015
by Sandra Hoban, Managing Editor
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In Pueblo, Colo., firefighters are being called on to perform lift assists in homes and at nursing facilities. One woman reportedly called the fire department 149 times in one year.

In addition to residential calls, the fire department also receives calls from nursing home staff asking firefighters to come to the facility to lift elderly patients who fall and get them back into bed. “Most fire departments don’t do this lift assistance, and that’s not really our job,” said Fire Chief Dale Villers at a recent city council meeting.

The fire department has seen a steady increase in assist calls in recent years, which has become a problem, Villers added. “We want to be called to any real emergency or injury,” he said in a newspaper article. Because people know they can call the Pueblo Fire Department for free, that policy is often abused, Villers said, citing the case of a disabled man who called the department to carry him out of his apartment so he could go out to dinner.

Colorado state law requires healthcare facilities to have lifting equipment, which doesn’t mean that they use it when firefighters are unavailable. “We’ve had nursing home staff tell us they’ve been ordered to stand back and let us lift patients for them,” Villers said. These nonemergency response calls cost the department time and expense, and they even injure firefighters.

The town of Greeley, Colo., charges healthcare facilities $300 a trip just to pick up nonemergency patients, and Pueblo City Council is looking into the idea.

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