City council probes community paramedicine model

Alberni city councillors voted to solicit the province to support establishing a community para medicine pilot program.

City councillors voted to solicit the province to support the establishment of a community para medicine pilot program.

Mayor John Douglas outlined the program in a letter to BC Minister of Health Terry Lake, BC Emergency Health Services Jodi Jensen and to Island Health CEO Brendan Carr.

The program would serve as an intervention by having paramedics treat patients’ medical conditions before they require advanced medical care, Douglas’ report to council noted. Douglas is a former paramedic.

Douglas used the example of an insulin-dependent diabetic who could be monitored and treated at home instead of at the hospital, adding that it would free up resources in the emergency ward.

“It would help people stay independent and stay at home longer,” he said.

The service will require little to no capital costs. The BC Ambulance Service has the infrastructure and equipment as well as paramedics not on-call that could be utilized.

Douglas said he has had cursory discussions with the Port Alberni Fire Department and BC Ambulance Service, as well as West Coast General Hospital and the Vancouver Island Health Authority.

“I would like to request that the Ministry of Health, BC Emergency Health Services and Island Health work cooperatively together and with willing stakeholders initiate a pilot program of community para medicine here in Port Alberni,” he wrote.

Coun. Cindy Solda asked Douglas if he had the support of local nursing practitioners. Douglas replied that the new service would work with other services and produce efficiencies.

Para medicine programs are already employed in Calgary, Winnipeg and Saskatchewan, he said.

According to a news release from Alberta Health, The Community Paramedic Program employs 10 paramedics who provide additional support to health care teams in the city’s supportive living facilities. The paramedics perform assessments, diagnostics and treatments in residents’ homes that would otherwise need to be done in a facility.

In Winnipeg, the city and Winnipeg Regional Health Authority launched the program in 2013, a news release noted. Patients who don’t need medical attention in a hospital ER receive assessments by community paramedics who then facilitate connecting patients with an urgent care centre.

BC doesn’t operate a community para medicine program but one could soon be on the way.

In May, the Facilities Bargaining Association representing 47,000 health care workers in hospitals, residential care facilities, emergency health services and other services reached a tentative deal with B.C.’s health employers.

In addition to wage and benefit increases, the agreement also includes a provision that enhances the ability of paramedics to work within a community para medicine model.

Speaking to the matter in the BC Legislature, Minister of Health Terry Lake pointed to para medicine models in Ontario and Nova Scotia.

“There may be a role for paramedics in long-term residential care settings to assist with the health care team in those settings as well,” Lake noted in the May 27 Hansard Report.

“This will require some flexibility of stakeholders on the health care team — in terms of doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, administrators — to incorporate paramedics in the community health care setting.”

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