Paramedic union president Bronwyn Barter (l)

Paramedic union president Bronwyn Barter (l)

New paramedicine program to include local communities

The new program will give paramedics an enhanced role in rural health-care.

Clinton, Lytton, Logan Lake, and Lillooet are among 73 rural and remote communities that will be taking part in the new community paramedicine program, which offers residents enhanced health services from paramedics.

The program was introduced in nine B.C. communities last year, and saw paramedics who were not on call-outs provide a variety of healthcare services, in nursing homes and people’s residences. Some of the services provided can include checking blood pressure, assisting with diabetic care, helping identify fall and tripping hazards, medication assessment, post-injury or illness evaluation, chronic disease management, and assisting with respiratory conditions. They will also be able to teach skills such as CPR at community clinics.

“Expanding the role of paramedics to help care for the health and well-being of our province’s residents just makes sense,” says Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart. “Ensuring rural communities have access to health-care services is critical, and all of these communities will benefit from this great program.”

The enhanced role of paramedics under the new program will not replace care provided by health professionals such as nurses, but will support and complement their work in non-urgent settings. The paramedics will perform assessments requested by the referring health-care professional, then record their findings, which will be included in the patient’s file.

The new program will also stabilize the employment of paramedics in rural areas, by extending their hours and duties and allowing them to make a living in smaller communities.

Tegart says that the program, which has been tested in other areas across the country, reduces ambulance calls and ER visits, and keeps chronic patients in their homes longer, because patients have someone come to them. Paramedic Rhiannon Davis from Tofino, one of the pilot communities, said that her new role allows her to develop relationships with people in the area and understand their needs, and to prevent, rather than wait for, emergencies.

Recruiting for the program is scheduled to start in early 2017 for the Interior Health region. Lytton and Logan Lake will each receive a full-time paramedic, Lillooet will share a full-time paramedic with the communities of Gold Bridge and Seton Portage, and Clinton will receive a 0.75 full-time equivalent.

Kristy Anderson, Manager (Media Relations) for the Ministry of Health, says that in order to be considered, communities needed to be defined as rural, small rural, or remote. Current ambulance staffing station staffing resources were also considered, as were population age; rates of chronic diseases; and distance between ambulance stations and communities in the service area. She adds that it’s important to note that regions immediately surrounding the communities taking part in the program are also covered.

“It’s so exciting,” says Tegart. “I’m thrilled that the Ministry of Health is supporting this project to enhance the service provided by ambulance attendants as part of the health-care team. It’s also an opportunity for them to enhance their training.

“It’s another piece of the puzzle for rural health.”