News10NBC Investigates: AMR/City of Rochester working on nurse navigator program for some who call 911

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Over the last few weeks, News10NBC has been investigating ambulance response time delays. AMR, the company with the city ambulance contact, admits it is experiencing a staffing shortage that is causing it to have to call mutual aid twice as often as previous years.

A new program under development may soon help defer some of the calls that don’t truly need life-saving immediate care to nurse navigators.

Basically, the 911 center will decide whether a situation warrants the need for fire, police, ambulance service or if a nurse could be sent instead to either treat that person in their home or connect them to the services he or she truly needs.

“My gout is acting up, I have a sore throat, my ears ache, I have a toothache, I have a spider bite, I have a sunburn. Believe it or not, there are nearly 9,000 of those across the City of Rochester and Monroe County every year,” said Dr. Jeremy Cushman, the EMS Medical Director for Monroe County and City of Rochester.

Those are calls that probably don’t really need an ambulance, but right now, by law, if a person wants to be transported to the hospital, the ambulance has to take them.

A nurse navigator would be another, different option. The 911 center would make the initial determination and the nurse can always call for an ambulance if needed when he/she gets to the scene and speaks with the person directly.

“You want clinicians to come from your community anyway because they have a level of trust that they build within the community. People are more likely to respond to people who look like them or who have the same interests as they do and that’s why they’re looking for community-based folks to put in positions to help around that nurse navigator program,” said Rochester City Council Vice President Willie Lightfoot who chairs the public safety committee.

The nurse navigator is there for medical reasons but can also try to make long-term changes to better connect the person with the appropriate level of care, “in some cases they may be arraigning for alternative transport to an urgent care center or one of our local clinics or providing care on-site,” Dr. Cushman explained.

The program is still in the infancy stages. AMR and the City of Rochester are applying for a nearly $2 million federal grant to get it off the ground.