Contra Costa residents urged to use 911 only for emergencies

Especially during flu season; ConFire says respiratory virus calls are straining CCC EMS resources

By Contra Costa Health Services

To ensure continued timely response to true medical emergencies, Contra Costa Health (CCH) encourages residents to call 911 only if the need for care is truly an emergency.

Contra Costa County’s emergency medical system traditionally serves higher-than-usual numbers of patients this time of year, and this month healthcare providers and the agencies providing emergency ambulance service are especially impacted because of COVID, flu and other respiratory viruses.

According to Con Fire, “Respiratory virus calls are straining CCC EMS resources.”

Several hospitals in the community are reporting critically high level of patients occupying beds, with more than 1,200 inpatients reported throughout the county as of Friday. Hospital emergency departments are similarly impacted.

Calling 911 for your health emergency is recommended if it involves:

  • Chest pain, difficulty breathing or a fast (120+ beats per minute) resting heartbeat
  • Numbness or weakness in any part of the body, seizures, or difficulty speaking
  • Fainting, unconsciousness, dizziness, sudden severe pain or headache, or confusion
  • Sudden blindness or vision changes
  • Heavy bleeding that will not stop with pressure, or broken bones
  • Choking, drowning or near drowning
  • Severe burns
  • Poisoning or drug overdose
  • Allergic reactions, especially if there is difficulty breathing
  • Someone making a credible threat to harm themselves or someone else

There are other good reasons to call 911 as well. But to reduce strain on the county’s healthcare system, CCH asks anyone considering whether to seek emergency care if a 911 call is the best way to get the services they need, or if contacting an advice nurse or urgent care might be more appropriate.

When many people seek care through 911 at the same time, it reduces the number of emergency ambulances in circulation, ready to respond when someone in the county needs lifesaving care.

Based on a paramedic’s assessment of a patient’s condition and if the number of available emergency ambulances is very low, the paramedic may suggest a patient visit an urgent care on their own or call an advice nurse.

During the winter virus season, patients visiting emergency departments at hospitals in the county may also need to wait longer depending on circumstances at the time they arrive and the severity of their illness or injury.


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