DC Neighborhood Turns to "House of Pain" for Primary Care

Northeast DC engine company busiest in the nation

By Tom Costello and Matthew Stabley
|  Thursday, Sep 10, 2009  |  Updated 8:32 PM EDT
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Neighborhood Turns to "House of Pain" for Health Care

Getty Images/David McNew

911's no joke in this neighborhood.

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WASHINGTON -- With so many Trinidad residents too poor to afford a trip to the doctor, the northeast D.C. neighborhood has turned D.C. Fire and EMS Engine Company 10 into the busiest company in the nation, but the department has a plan to hopefully reduce calls.

So many Trinidad residents turn to 10 as their first and last resort for primary care that the company is known as "The House of Pain."

Citywide, the D.C. gets about 425 calls for service per day, and 80 percent of them are medical. Eighteen to 20 of those calls go to The House of Pain. That's about 6,500 a year.

Many of the calls are legitimate -- heart attack, stroke, seizure -- but sometimes the patients are suffering from mere headaches or sore throats, and they want to know how they should treat their pain. So D.C. Fire Chief Dennis Rubin has launched a plan to reduce the number of trivial calls and spare firefighters for real emergencies.

In 2007, the same 30 people were responsible for about 2,000 calls. By making street calls, the department hopes to keep its most frequent callers healthy so they don't dial 911. The department is making house calls -- knocking on doors and offering checkups.

So far, the program's getting raves. A second car was added, and a third could be in the future.

Watch Tom Costello's report on News4 at 11 p.m.

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