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Fire department wants fee for lifting people off of floors

September 10, 2018 GMT

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Omaha Fire Department wants the city to charge a $400 fee for helping pick up people who have fallen off a bed or chair onto the floor, even when they haven’t been hurt.

The Omaha World-Herald reports that the department said it happens up to 350 times a year: An assisted living facility or a nursing home calls 911, asking the department to help a resident who has fallen onto the floor. It is not a medical emergency call. Just a call for assistance.

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Each call costs the city at least $1,000 and leads to longer response times for higher priority calls, the department said.

“The hope is by charging this fee, it will dissuade calls for service for nonemergency matters,” Fire Chief Dan Olsen said in a letter to the City Council, which is scheduled to take a final vote Tuesday on the request.

The fee would apply only if first responders were to determine there were no medical problems involved. The department’s proposal is based largely on a Lincoln practice in which the Lincoln department charges $349 for such nonemergency “lift assists.”

Assisted living facilities are not required to have a nurse on staff 24 hours a day, said Julie Sebastian, CEO of New Cassel Retirement Center.

“Sometimes, when we call the Fire Department, it’s because we aren’t sure that someone is safe to get up,” Sebastian told the Omaha council at a meeting last month. “If they try to get up from having fallen, they might further hurt themselves. We need medical professionals on-site to help determine that.”

She also said a fee could lead to discrimination against larger people if providers fear that they will face fees for getting help when the people fall because they require more help getting up than staffers can easily provide.

“That could result in providers potentially declining admission because of the worry of a fall,” Sebastian said.

Assistant Fire Chief Kathy Bossmann said firefighters would still be happy to respond.

“We just want to recoup a portion of the cost,” she said.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com