Phoenix Fire recruits taxis for hospital transportation

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The program frees up ambulances that may need to be dispatched to life-threatening situations. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The program frees up ambulances that may need to be dispatched to life-threatening situations. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Taxis like these are helping people get to the hospital in non-emergency situations. (Source: AP) Taxis like these are helping people get to the hospital in non-emergency situations. (Source: AP)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Need a lift to the hospital? Your ride there might not be a typical ambulance.

The Phoenix Fire Department has been using taxis to get people in non-emergency situations to the hospital at a fraction of the cost. This service is a part of the City’s taxi-voucher program, paid for by the City, that frees up ambulances that may need to be dispatched to life-threatening situations.

Of the 150,000 calls that Phoenix dispatchers get each year, 7,600 of those calls ended up using a taxi to get to their destination, according to Larry Subervi, Phoenix Fire Department spokesman. 

"They can't go further than 11 miles, that's how the voucher program is set up. So if you have a place outside of that 11-mile footprint, then you would only be able to take them by taxi to someplace within that 11 miles," Subervi said.

However, hospitals aren't the only place these patients need to go. 

"It can be a doctor's office, it can be a pharmacy, it can be a clinic. It's not necessarily an emergency room. So they make the determination of where they want to go and how they want to get there," Subervi said.

The fire department is still working out the kinks, though.

According to The Associated Press, Frank Piccioli, president of the Phoenix dispatchers’ labor union, said people are reporting they are having to wait too long for their cab rides. During these patients’ long wait, they are calling dispatch multiple times.

[RELATED: Neighbors petition City Council for new fire station to speed up response times]

"(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," Piccioli said.

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