Could you define "not uncommon" please? Daily? Monthly? She saw this herself, or 'heard about it'? And the ambulance crews just waved them onboard, like wide-eyed innocents who could be duped that way? [...]
Some input from a medic from Munich, southern Germany. Depending on which part of town you get assigned to you the number of frequent flyers varies considerably. From experience - no statistics to back that up, sorry - our gold card members are most frequent
- in the poorest quarters where half the calls turn out to be drunks, junkies (who usually did not intend to see us) and socially isolated, but not necessarily homeless people looking for someone to talk to, and
- in the older, still not so fully urbanized incorporated villages where elderly people of modest wealth abound who cannot properly care for themselves anymore, whose children have moved too far away to provide constant care but who are too proud to move into a dedicated care facility.
What keeps amazing me is that in spite of my - and other medics' - prediction after the banking crisis and the ensuing wave of unemployment the number of FFs type a seems to be more or less constant but type b has been climbing steadily. So this is only partly an issue of poverty. It has more to do with social isolation, with the increasing difficulty of maintaining a robust social network (not Facebook, the family-and-friends variety) that can catch people when they face difficult phases in their life so that they do not hit rock bottom.
Medical care has long transitioned into social care that along the way can also give you a pill or sew up a cut.
And as to whether the medics are duped: Someone wants to see a doctor, you take them to a doctor. That is what the law says. That is what our job description says. We try to avoid it, believe me. We sweet-talk, we bribe, we threaten. But if the patient is adamant, there is no way we are going to assume the legal risk of refusing transportation. The ER staff is not naive, they know their devoted customers. They will make them go through hell, put them through every annoying and time-consuming test they can think of. But guess what: Because of this practice with increasing regularity they actually find a legitimate medical issue that had gone undiagnosed by doctors who just saw the addict or the annoying elderly or the lonesome hypochondriac and treated that instead of the complaints and symptoms.
In medicine there is no easy answer, no magical solution.