New initiative fights patient EMS overuse in Newport News

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - When it comes to calls for EMS in Newport News, the vast majority are real emergencies, but many aren't and EMS Asst. Chief Robert Lee is hoping a new initiative will help.

In 2016, Lee says 193 people called for EMS more than five times. In 2017 one person has called more than 25 times.

The calls vary, from people who have run out of medication to people who want transportation to an area near the hospital.

Lee says the non-emergency calls add wear and tear to paramedics and the ambulances they drive.

"It taxes the system. We have 12 ambulances that work 24 hours a day," said Robert Lee, EMS Chief for the Newport News Fire Department. When someone calls with a non-emergent issue...it ties that unit up and that unit is not able to address emergency calls."

In March, the Newport News Fire Department began tracking the patients making these calls to try and find the best resources for them.

The result is Mobile Integrated Healthcare and Community Paramedicine; a partnership between the fire department, police department, Peninsula Health Center, Community Services Board and more.

The partnership aims to help provide mobile, out-of-hospital care to patients with specific needs. Right now Lee says an EMS employee is following with patients to find out what those are.

"He's got a patient he thinks needs to be connected with Peninsula Health District for diabetes he'll contact Peninsula Health District," he said.

The hope is doing this with enough patients will give them a more appropriate number to call and not clog up 911.

Lee says that would free paramedics up for more training and opportunities to get out into the community.

Lee says this issue has become a problem in communities across the country including Virginia Beach where, in August, a News 3 investigation found a couple called 911 1,100 times.