A program using paramedics to enhance health care services in rural communities is continuing to gain momentum.
In 2015, prototype community paramedic positions were posted in nine communities, including in Creston and Princeton within Interior Health.
Services provided by community paramedics can include checking blood pressure, assisting with diabetes care, helping to identify fall hazards, medication assessment, post-injury or illness evaluate and assisting with respiratory conditions.
The goal within IH is to initially expand the program to reach 31 communities, including Lumby, Nakusp, New Denver, Revelstoke and Sicamous.
Pending government funding, the program will be pushed further to Ashcroft, Barriere, Castlegar, Chase, Cranbrook, Grand Forks, Kimberley, Merritt and Osoyoos by June 2018.
IH board chairman Doug Cochrane called the program a means of strengthening a bond between primary health care providers and patients.
“This is bringing a sense of humanity back to health care like we have not seen before,” Cochrane said.
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The partnership between community paramedics and IH staff in a non-emergency response setting is raising hopes of a decline in medically unnecessary 911 calls and emergency room visits, says Nancy Kotani, chief transformation officer for B.C. Emergency Health Services.
While she thinks that trend is becoming more apparent, the statistical impact of the program is still gathering data to prove that anecdotal analysis.
“We are creating an opportunity to help people self-manage their chronic health conditions and the support through the paramedicine program to do that,” Kotani said.
The paramedicine initiative gives paramedics who have completed the Justice Institute program training full-time status positions that otherwise likely wouldn’t exist.
Kotani said Interior CP patient referrals are largely in the 65 to 85 age bracket, older people often living on their own with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart failure or obstructive pulmonary disease.
From January 2016 to September 2017, Kotani noted Interior CPs have made a total of 1,125 home visits.
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