Right Care, Right Place, Right Time

Sacramento Sees Big Increase in Non-Emergency 911 Calls for Ambulances

The pandemic has caused many people to delay needed health care. Now, first-line responders are seeing many more people call 911 for non-emergency care, which reduces the response capacity for time-sensitive and life-threatening situations — and imposes a substantial burden on emergency response systems and the communities they serve.

With these large increases for non-urgent care, Sacramento’s first responders are encouraging people to get the right care, in the right place, at the right time.


One of Sacramento’s busiest hospital emergency departments has seen a 300% increase in patients arriving via ambulance at the lowest level (least sick) possible assessment (level 5 on the ESI scale). In fact, over half of patients arriving at this emergency department are ultimately not sick enough to be admitted to the hospital for further care.

When an ambulance arrives at a hospital, patients are assessed to determine how urgently their condition needs care.  Arriving via ambulance does not “jump the line” or help a patient get seen sooner by medical providers than arriving at the hospital any other way. In reality, many patients have to wait outside the hospital, in an ambulance, for hours because they are not sick enough to be seen sooner.

These recent increases in ambulance calls for non-emergency care mean ambulances wait — sometimes as long as 8 hours — at the hospital before they can unload their non-emergency patients.

2,000 hours

With these recent increases, ambulance crews in Sacramento are spending between 2,000 and 3,000 hours each month waiting with patients who are not sick enough to be unloaded and seen at the hospital.

As a community, it is imperative we address this issue by better assessing the need for emergency care to elevate the burden our hospital systems and emergency responders are facing.

By reducing our non-emergency 911 calls, we can better serve the community members who are experiencing emergency or life-threating medical issues. 


When you get sick or hurt, it can be hard to decide whether to see your regular doctor, go to a hospital emergency room, or visit an urgent care walk-in center.

This guide is designed to help you make the best choice.

*If you feel you are in an emergency where your life is at risk, call 911.


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