Guelph is one of 30 Ontario communities to receive provincial funding to develop a community paramedicine program to improve access to home care and support services for seniors and other patients with chronic conditions.
Speaking at an event in Thunder Bay on October 14, Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, announced the Province would support and invest $6 million in the expansion and development of community paramedicine programs across Ontario. Guelph is receiving $220,000.
Locally, two programs will be developed to improve access to homecare and support services for high risk seniors and other vulnerable populations. These programs will help seniors and other patients live independently longer, and reduce emergency visits and hospital admissions.
“This is great news for our community and for our paramedic service,” says Stephen Dewar, chief of Guelph-Wellington Emergency Medical Service. “Our community paramedicine program will allow our paramedics to better assist the people we serve and help to reduce the strain on an overcrowded emergency system.”
Implementation of the Guelph-Wellington Community Paramedicine Project is scheduled to begin next month. During phase one, paramedics with Guelph-Wellington Emergency Medical Service (GWEMS) will be trained and equipped to use the Community Referral by Emergency Medical Services model to send an electronic referral to the Waterloo Wellington Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) for follow-up patient care.
In this program, referrals are made by paramedics who respond to 911 calls based on a determination that a patient is in need of additional healthcare or support services. These referrals are made to the appropriate CCAC for further assessment and determination of the types of service best suited to the patient’s needs.
“For example, an elderly patient who falls and needs paramedic assistance in getting back up, but who is not injured and does not wish to go to the hospital, can be referred by a paramedic to the CCAC where he or she may be eligible for a falls-prevention program or other community service,” explains Dewar.
The second phase of the project involves the creation of the Community Health Assessment Program and paramedic participation in a study being conducted by McMaster University in Hamilton. Through this program community paramedics are placed within specific community settings such as a seniors’ building to provide health education and support to residents.
“Early study findings indicate that paramedics visiting apartment buildings with a high senior population and being available as a resource for residents can improve their health and reduce the number of medical calls to the building,” says Dewar, adding, “We are participating in the second phase of the study to verify that we can make a difference in buildings in Guelph.”
Earlier this year, GWEMS, along with members of Guelph Health Link, submitted a proposal asking the Province to invest funds into a local community paramedicine program.