Phoenix fire dept. utilizing taxis to take patients to hospital

The taxi-voucher program at the Phoenix Fire Department is a way for officials to deal with limited resources and increasing calls

By FireRescue1 Staff

PHOENIX — Officials said they are increasingly utilizing taxis to transport non-emergent patients to the hospital in an effort to handle high call volumes and limited resources.

AZ Central reported that the Phoenix Fire Department is using the taxi-voucher program, which is paid for by the city, to transport callers. The practice occurs most often for patients who have no other means to get to medical treatment.

Officials said the program prevents patients from having to pay a large ambulance bill and keeps the staff available for emergency situations.

“A lot of times these people are [in] need of something outside of what our definition is, of what we are, which is providing emergency care and treatment in the streets, in the home or wherever,” Phoenix Fire Executive Assistant Chief Mark Angle said.

However, some department members think the taxi program is being used too much, and said some patients that are given taxi rides should have been transported in an ambulance.

Critics added that the program also increases call volume for dispatchers as they try to connect the patient with a taxi driver, and dispatchers said some of the drivers they contact don’t even show up.

"I understand that the purpose of it is to get the crews back on the road as quick as possible, for minor incidents,” Phoenix dispatchers labor union president Frank Piccioli said. "[But] while it may alleviate crews from the call, the dispatch center — which is severely understaffed — continuously has this call, because that customer still needs assistance, still needs transportation and sometimes the situation may worsen."

In 2016, the fire department dispatched 7,611 taxis to transport patients.

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