Air Force vet lies in bed in pain because stretcher service non-existent

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — An Air Force Vietnam veteran is confined to his bed in Henrietta because he’s in so much pain. He can’t get to his medical appointments because our community has no one to take him.

Sandra Griffin-Roth sat at her husband’s bedside. Jim Roth enlisted in the Air Force when he was 17. After two decades his back pain got him discharged. Today he can’t walk or sit up in a wheelchair so he needs a stretcher to get to appointments.

Brean: "So when you call for a stretcher service right now what response do you get?"

Sandra Griffin-Roth: "No one we called does stretcher service right now. We’re just very afraid that he doesn’t have any way to get better."

"I think her situation is something I hear too frequently," said Damon Mustaca, director of business development at Rochester Medical Transportation.

I called him when I learned about Jim Roth’s situation. RMT has a stretcher van.

Brean: "So what happened to stretcher service?"

Damon Mustaca: "Well I would say a couple of things. One of the number one providers in town went out of business."

Mustaca said operating stretcher service is expensive because it requires a driver and an aide, the calls are unpredictable and because the rides not emergencies, insurance doesn’t pay and Medicaid barely does.

"Those rates haven’t gone up in the last 20 years if at all," Mustaca said.

In order for Roth to get an MRI Wednesday, his doctor had to call an ambulance which took him to the emergency room at RGH.

Reg Allen’s ambulance service, CHS Mobile Integrated Health Care, got the call. He said they normally stretcher people from the hospital back home.

Reg Allen, CHS Mobile Integrated Health Care: "During COVID a number of those providers very much limited or stopped altogether."

Brean: "And has that service come back?"

Allen: "No."

Brean: "If you have to do, if ambulance services have to do it, you have to get reimbursed for that service, who are you billing for that?"

Allen: "The hospital. The hospital pays for it."

I asked Sandra what a solution would mean to her family.

"It would infuse our life with some hope because we’ve been feeling right on that border of hopeless because we know we have to get to these appointments," she said. "It’s pretty depressing when you think of what you might end up with if you can’t get to these places."

So here’s a solution. Rochester Medical Transportation is finalizing a proposal to the hospital systems that would create an available stretcher service.

The hospitals would have to ante up some money.

RMT and the county office of veteran services have contact information for the Roth family.