September 10, 2009

Firefighters on the front lines of medical care delivery

We have been in the trenches documenting some unfortunately common and absurdly archaic health care stories, which we are pulling together into a series of films to be broadcast and webcast in the near future. One of these films is a documentary called FIRESTORM, a one-hour film, (which has advanced to the second round for finishing funds from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting-funded ITVS/LINCS fund). FIRESTORM follows the firefighters of Station 65 in Watts, Los Angeles and reveals the little-known fact that firefighter/paramedics are on the front lines of delivering health care to the poor, uninsured and underinsured, some of whom mis-use 911 for transport to emergency rooms for treatment of non-urgent medical conditions.

FIRESTORM reveals the depth of the crisis in emergency medical care in Los Angeles. Eleven hospitals have closed in five years and paramedics transport as many as 500 people to ERs every day, many of whom could be treated by primary care physicians. Not surprisingly, this situation plagues EMS workers across the country. Most recently the NY Times reported on the dysfunctional system in the nation's capitol where more than 80% of firefighters' runs are medical, rather than fire-related, just like in LA.