Community paramedic aid, but needs permanent funding: Chief


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The success of the Hastings-Quinte community paramedic program warrants ongoing funding, said the area’s chief paramedic.

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First offered here in 2015 as part of a federal research project, the program helps keep patients home through visits with advanced care paramedics and remote monitoring. It focuses on patients with a history of repeat visits to hospitals.

This focus and early intervention not only helps patients, but also hospitals and more, said Chief Doug Socha of Hastings-Quinte Paramedic Services.

“We see that helping the whole health care system,” Socha said.

“It really needs to be part of our core funding,” he said June 8 at the last meeting of the Hastings County Joint Emergency Services Committee.

Socha released program statistics from April 1, 2021 through March 31, 2022. It said 1,032 residents of Hastings and Prince Edward counties received community paramedic services during the year. The paramedics themselves traveled 118,345 km.

“This dedicated team is starting a new round with partnerships in primary care, home and community care, community and support services, hospitals, clinics and other health care partners as they make the strike to care for patients at home,” Socha wrote in a report to the Committee.

Community paramedics interacted with clients 4,805 times; of these, 3,575 were in clients’ homes. Another 1.20 were telephone or online appointments.

The team made 406 referrals to other agencies for continued client support.

Community paramedics also help with regular service calls.

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“If there is an emergency, and those are the closest paramedics, they will also respond,” Socha said.

This happened 44 times in the period studied.

Socha reported that 261 patients were enrolled in the remote patient monitoring program, which led to 306 phone calls or verbal assessments due to alerts generated by the monitoring system. The system monitors patients’ vital signs, etc. and triggers alerts if readings are cause for concern, such as abnormally high blood pressure or low oxygen saturation.

Of the 306 assessment calls, 34 resulted in in-home physical assessments. Additionally, a dedicated escalation team – also comprised of community paramedics – responded eight times, and the escalation team arranged three same-day appointments with clients’ primary care providers.

The climbing team also took four clients to hospital.

Without the community paramedicine program, Socha said, these assessments “potentially could have been calls for an ambulance.

“There were only four clients who were actually transported (to hospital) based on these alerts.”

Terry Cassidy, committee member and advisor to Quinte West, asked if the capacity required by the program was known.

Socha said data showing the benefits of the program is still being collected, but there is a clear need for continued funding.

It is now fully funded by the Ontario government, primarily through the Ministry of Long-Term Care, but also the Ministry of Health.

The province announced in February 2021 nearly $6 million for the program: about $4.5 million to extend it over four years and the remainder for vehicles, equipment and supplies.

This funding is currently scheduled to end at the end of 2024.

“This year will really be the year to present it and advocate with the province,” Socha said.


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