Program Asks Unwell to Avoid Health Care Facilities, Connects Those Without a Doctor with Remote Primary Care Resources


The Chautauqua Health Network and its partner doctors, independent practices and hospitals are urging residents to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by calling their doctor if they are feeling unwell instead of visiting an emergency room, urgent care or medical provider in person.

Residents without a medical provider or who need help connecting are invited to call (716) 338-0010, or email and will receive a response within 24 hours.

With the overall goal of keeping health care workers safe and flattening the COVID curve, theresource works to distance residents in need of acute care away from hospitals and emergency rooms as much as possible by pivoting to remote visits with a doctor via telemedicine.

The calls and emails will be processed by experienced health worker volunteers who assist connecting callers to providers. The program is open to all area residents regardless of insurance coverage or immigration documentation.

Lorraine Diggs, the former Chief Nursing Officer at UPMC Chautauqua, is serving as the director of the program, managing the day-to-day referral process. “Volunteers are filling a vital need connecting individuals that do not have a primary care physician and/or health insurance find a medical resource. This will help to keep health workers safe and take the strain off busy emergency rooms and urgent care facilities that too often serve as the first point of contact for those needing medical services.” Diggs said.

Dr. Lillian Ney, former Vice-President of Medical Affairs at WCA Hospital, is overseeing the program. “This is a very community-minded and much appreciated way of helping prepare our residents for the expected crisis, simultaneously attempting to insulate the county’s three Emergency Department from unnecessary patient encounters at a time when they may be overwhelmed with extremely ill patients, such as we’ve noted in other areas of the country.”

“The patient who is linked with a physician’s practice will be contacted and the result will be what is medically determined to be applicable, case by case. We are grateful for all the participating physician practices,” Dr. Ney said.

Chautauqua Health network is a nonprofit, state-designated Rural Health Network comprised of over 140 physicians, two hospitals, and numerous community-based organizations with the goal of structuring a health care system that provides access to quality services and meets the needs of both consumers and providers. It was founded in 1995 by former Jamestown Mayor, US Representative and Lieutenant Governor, Stan Lundine.