Community paramedicine expands throughout British Columbia
Health Minister Terry Lake has announced the 73 rural and remote B.C. communities that will welcome community paramedicine, a program that offers residents enhanced health services from paramedics.
“The Community Paramedicine Initiative is a key component of our plan to improve access to primary health-care services in rural B.C.,” Lake said. “By building upon the skills and background of paramedics, we are empowering them to expand access to care for people who live in rural and remote communities, helping patients get the care they need closer to home.”
The program is just one way the Province is working to enhance the delivery of primary care services to British Columbians. The services provided may include checking blood pressure, assisting with diabetic care, helping to identify fall hazards, medication assessment, post-injury or illness evaluation, and assisting with respiratory conditions.
Under this program, paramedics will provide basic health-care services, within their scope of practice, in partnership with local health-care providers. The enhanced role is not intended to replace care provided by health professionals such as nurses, but rather to complement and support the work these important professionals do each day, delivered in non-urgent settings, in patients’ homes or in the community.
“As a former BC Ambulance paramedic, I understand the potential benefits of community paramedicine,” said Jordan Sturdy, MLA for West Vancouver-Sea to Sky. “Expanding the role of paramedics to help care for the health and well-being of British Columbians just makes sense.”
Community paramedicine broadens the traditional focus of paramedics on pre-hospital emergency care to include disease prevention, health promotion and basic health-care services. This means a paramedic will visit rural patients in their home or community, perform assessments requested by the referring health-care professional, and record their findings to be included in the patient’s file. They will also be able to teach skills such as CPR at community clinics.
“Community paramedics will focus on helping people stay healthy and the specific primary care needs of the people in these communities,” said Linda Lupini, executive vice president, BC Emergency Health Services. “This program also allows us to enhance our ability to respond to medical emergencies by offering permanent employment to paramedics in rural and remote areas of the province.”
“Community paramedicine brings improved patient care and more career opportunities to rural and remote areas,” said Bronwyn Barter, president, Ambulance Paramedics of BC (CUPE 873). “Paramedics are well-suited to take on this important role in health-care provision.”
Community paramedicine was initially introduced in the province in 2015 in nine prototype communities. The initiative is now expanding provincewide, and will be in place in 31 communities in the Interior, 18 communities in northern B.C., 19 communities on Vancouver Island, and five communities in the Vancouver coastal area this year.
At least 80 new full-time equivalent positions will support the implementation of community paramedicine, as well as augment emergency response capabilities. Positions will be posted across the regional health authorities. The selection, orientation and placement process is expected to take about four months.
Community paramedics are expected to be delivering community health services in northern B.C. this fall, in the Interior in early 2017, on Vancouver Island and the Vancouver coastal area in the spring of 2017.
BC Emergency Health Services has been co-ordinating the implementation of community paramedicine in B.C. with the Ministry of Health, regional health authorities, the Ambulance Paramedics of BC (CUPE 873), the First Nations Health Authority and others.