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Community Paramedic Program helps high risk patients live independently longer

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A new Community Paramedic Program launched by the Leeds Grenville Paramedic Service, in partnership with Kemptville District Hospital (KDH) and the Champlain Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), is helping seniors and other people with complex health issues get the care they need.

Through the program, specially trained paramedics make scheduled house calls to people who have been identified as needing at-home checks following ER visits or hospitalization. They provide non-emergency care such as help with medications, wellness checks, and safe home assessments. Additionally, an important part of the program is connecting people to other community supports to bridge any gaps in services.

People referred to the program include seniors, people with chronic illnesses, mental health concerns, and disabilities.

Community paramedic programs are proven to help people live independently longer, and reduce avoidable ER visits and hospital admissions.

Deb Mitchell, KDH’s Team Lead for the ER, gave an example of how an at-home visit from a paramedic can be a game-changer.  “By observing the patient in his or her home, the paramedic may identify a tripping hazard or other mobility or medical issue that we couldn’t possibly be aware of in the ER. This could definitely prevent a trip to the hospital,” she said.

Funding for the program in partnership with KDH is provided by the Champlain LHIN. “The Community Paramedic Program builds on the Champlain LHIN’s goal of integrating health care by ensuring people experience a smooth transition from hospital to home, and receive more coordinated care in the community,” said Champlain LHIN CEO Chantale LeClerc. “Across the system, we hope to see more and more partnerships and collaboration like this one.”

Community paramedic programs were first funded in Ontario in 2014, as part of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s Patients First Action Plan. In 2016, the Ministry committed to extending the program and working with partners to develop a long-term plan for community paramedicine.

For KDH, community paramedicine is strongly aligned to the hospital’s strategic plan, which has an emphasis on building and facilitating partnerships with other providers and making care seamless for patients and their families.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to work with the Leeds Grenville Paramedic Service to offer this program to the North Grenville community,” explained KDH’s CEO, Frank J. Vassallo. “Our common goal is to help people live independently in their homes as long as possible. This results in improved quality of life as well as potential cost savings for the health system as a whole.”

For the paramedics, the work is very rewarding, as it enables them to use skills outside their traditional roles as first responders. Jeff Carss, Deputy Chief of the Leeds Grenville Paramedic Service, described the paramedics as being, “the eyes and ears of the health system”. “They can see where there is need for additional support, and help connect patients to the services they need,” he added.

Carss relayed that the Chief of the Leeds Grenville Paramedic Service, Chris Lloyd, received an email from Brian Campbell, a client of the community paramedic program, which spoke of its impact. In sending the email, Campbell copied Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Kathleen Wynne, Leeds-Grenville MP Gord Brown and MPP Steve Clark, North Grenville Mayor David Gordon, and KDH CEO Frank Vassallo.  

In his message, Campbell stated, “The community paramedic weekly visit to my home is a wonderful service, checking on me, all my vital signs, and my lungs, due to my breathing problems. The visits are reassuring and serve as indicators that I am doing the right things. “

“I would like to commend you, your services and staff for the wonderful job you all are doing with this program,” he added. “I am not sure how the funding works for this program but it should be kept in place. As a result, I am sending a copy of this to all political officials, letting them know of the excellent work your team is doing.”

Since the community paramedic program was launched at KDH in July 2017, patients from the North Grenville community have received regular visits from Leeds Grenville Community Paramedics. KDH and Leeds Grenville Paramedic Service are looking to expand the program. Currently patients are referred to the program by KDH nursing management following an ER visit or hospital admission.

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