Island Health has partnered with BC Emergency Health Services to roll out an innovative new program that will bring more paramedics to local communities and give local paramedics more opportunities to provide patient care.
The program will be piloted in Tofino, Ucluelet, Cortes Island and Port Hardy in early-2016 and is expected to be launched BC-wide in the spring.
Ucluelet Mayor Dianne St. Jacques was thrilled to see her community selected for the pilot program.
“We’re challenged with not having a hospital here or a seven-day-a-week medical facility so to have these extra medically trained people in our community all the time could be nothing but good,” she said.
“How great would it be to have more people that you could count on close at hand? I think it’s a really positive thing moving forward. I’m very happy that Island Health is going this way and I’m really happy that Tofino and ourselves have come together and been successful on this.”
The initiative will call on paramedics to provide primary and non-emergency health care services through partnerships with local healthcare providers, according to a recent Island Health media release.
“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,” the release states.
The program is being launched through collaboration between the Ministry of Health, the province’s health authorities, and the Ambulance Paramedics of BC union.
BC’s Health Minister Terry Lake is excited to see the program unfold.
“With a focus on prevention, health promotion and primary care, community paramedicine will help us tailor services to meet the unique needs of rural patients,” he said.
“This partnership is a great example of how we are working in collaboration with health care providers and stakeholders to improve the delivery of health care in rural and remote areas of the province.”
Ambulance Paramedics of BC president Bronwyn Barter said BC’s “highly-trained” paramedics are well suited for their new community health role.
“With the community paramedicine program will come enhanced patient care and new full-time career opportunities across the province,” she said.
The province is expected to bring in 80 new full-time paramedicine jobs to support the program over the next four years.
“Community paramedicine is an exciting and innovative program that will help us expand community-based care for our rural and remote communities,” said Island Health CEO Dr. Brendan Carr. “Paramedics are important partners in the health care team and we welcome this new approach.”
BC Emergency Health Services Executive Vice President Linda Lupini noted the program would help deliver effective emergency response to rural communities.
“The Community Paramedic Initiative allows us to strengthen our ability to respond to medical emergencies by helping to keep paramedics engaged in rural and remote communities with low call volumes,” she said
“At the same time, community paramedics will be helping to bridge gaps in health services delivery identified by these communities throughout the province.”