Ambulance services/falls/emergencies

In an effort to deter nursing home staff from calling 911 when a resident falls, one Washington city has added a penalty.

Providers in Tacoma, WA, will now be forced to pay a fine of up to $850 in specific circumstances. For example, if the staffer calls the fire department to help lift a senior who has fallen, but does not require other medical care, the News Tribune reported.

Robin Dale, president and CEO of the Washington Health Care Association, said Monday that he is unaware of any other municipalities that impose such a fine in the state. His agency is exploring how to fight the new fine, he told McKnight’s Monday.

“WHCA, in its role as advocate for those who care for Tacoma’s elderly and most vulnerable, is deeply troubled by the ordinance,” Dale said. “Currently, we are evaluating the law and intend to explore all legal and/or legislative strategies to challenge this inequitable action by the city council.”

The “lift assistance” fine, as it’s called, will not be levied on calls for seniors who have fallen in private residences, parks or public spaces. Tacoma fire officials noted that they respond to upward of 360 non-emergency fall-related calls each year. About 25 facilities made up the vast majority of those incidents last year, including seven SNFs and 17 assisted living facilities.

Consumer advocates told the city council that the new fine — which starts Feb. 1  — could have a “chilling impact” on those seeking help for the elderly.

But city officials said their only intent is to re-educate caregivers.

“The motivation behind this ordinance is to make sure we work with these providers to change behaviors,” City Councilwoman Lillian Hunter said last week. “It is not our intention for it to be punitive or a revenue generator.”