SFFD urges public to avoid calling 911 for non-emergencies amid staff shortages

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The San Francisco Fire Department and Zuckerberg General Hospital are urging residents to only use their services if it is an emergency. They are experiencing staffing shortages due to the pandemic and claim many people have been calling 911 for non life-threatening purposes.

"We have been having about 400 EMS calls a day in the city for the past several days," said Jeanine Nicholson, San Francisco Fire Department Chief. "We usually get around 300-330."

Nicholson says the increase in calls stems from the omicron variant. More people are calling with mild symptoms and asking for COVID tests. That puts a strain on the department.

"What we are also seeing is many of our members off with COVID," Nicholson said. "So there is also a demand issue."

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Zuckerberg San Francisco General are feeling similar issues. More people are coming to emergency room with mild symptoms and asking for COVID tests.

"We see about 200 or more people a day," said Dr. Susan Ehrlich, the CEO of the hospital. "Many of our staff are out either sick with COVID themselves or quarantining because they have had a high risk encounter."

They say this limits their ability to care for people having life-threatening issues that require immediate attention. They ask people not to use their services unless its an emergency.

"We really want to keep our ambulances available to people have heart attacks or strokes so we can get them to the hospital," Nicholson said. "Please do not call 911 asking for a COVID test or with mild symptoms."

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