Health Care 911
Health Care 911

About this project

The call comes in and, for the 10th, 12th, or 20th time, paramedics take a middle-aged man from the streets to the ER. Such frequent users cost the emergency medical system millions, yet don't get the help they need. This five-part series examines the problem of frequent users of emergency services. The frequent 911 users in this series are the most chronic users of the emergency room and can defy institutional, government-based, solutions. They will remain a challenge no matter what becomes of the health reform law currently under U.S. Supreme Court review.


Frequent users strain medical system

With an ambulance gurney cradling his defeated body, Raohl Hursh sought peace with his past inside the frenzied emergency room of the UC San Diego Medical Center in Hillcrest. It was his 29th visit in four years, his 12th in a month, his second in...

Paramedics constantly serve same patients

The engine of Fire-Rescue Co. 7 heaved out of the station on a recent night — wailing past couples bound for the Gaslamp Quarter straight to a man who was sprawled, legs akimbo, on a dirty third-floor walkway.

Frequent users burden ER doctors

Behind the curtain of an exam room at the UC San Diego Hillcrest emergency department, Dr. James Dunford attempts to coax the truth from a woman who is a stereotype of drug-seeking behavior.

Rebuilding lives to reduce ER use

The pitchman for San Diego’s effort to reverse the cycle of 911 calls from the city’s homeless enclaves makes no apologies for his fiscal-first approach. Brian Maienschein, commissioner for United Way’s plan to end chronic homelessness, and...

Can a frequent user break the syndrome?

The needle kisses Joan Kloh’s skin, and she is about to inject the meth it offers into her weather-beaten, twisted rope of an arm. She is with street “friends,” who have joined her in feeding various addictions through each doorway of a derelict...


John Gonzales

John Gonzales

Senior writer John Gonzales specializes in the demographics of health policy. He was most recently based in New Orleans as Southern Regional Correspondent for the Associated Press. He covered efforts to rebuild from Hurricane Katrina, as well as immigration and the shifting demographics of The South. Gonzales previously was Hispanic Affairs reporter at Newsday -- a beat that took him from New York's emerging Mexican neighborhoods, to the U.S. border region, to rural Mexican towns. His "Texas Smuggling" articles won the National Association of Hispanic Journalists best breaking news award in 2004. He was also awarded The Freedom Forum’s North American Journalist Exchange fellowship in 2001. Gonzales spent the early part of his 15-year journalism career on the staffs of The Daily Breeze and the Gardena Valley News. He is a USC Annenberg graduate, with honors, and a dual major in political science. He is also a Spanish speaker and graduate of the Los Angeles Times Minority Editorial Training Program, or METPro.

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