New approach with community paramedics

A new concept being discussed would allow paramedics in the province to help fill gaps community health care delivery.

A new concept being discussed would allow paramedics in the province to help fill gaps community health care delivery.

Lengthy ambulance response times in rural and remote areas of B.C. has been gaining attention, as well as recruitment and retention of paramedics. The Ambulance Paramedics of B.C. noted that there are serious gaps in healthcare, in a letter to city council.

Those gaps mean lengthy delays for emergency care and may also mean long travel times for healthcare.

The community paramedic program aims to help address some of those gaps in the community.

“This is quite an interesting move where paramedics are asking to be more involved in community health,” said Mayor Stetski at the Sept. 15 meeting. “So rather than just responding when an ambulance call comes in.”

Stetski noted the union organization wants to engage municipalities across the province to look at the holistic approach to health.

“There’s a role for physicians, there’s a role for nurse practitioners and there’s a role for paramedics,” he said, adding that the challenge is that they report to different authorities.

At a previous UBCM conference, the Ambulance Paramedics of B.C. (APBC) spoke conceptually about the community paramedic programs. They have been successful in other parts of Canada, the U.S., the UK, New Zealand and Australia.

“Over the last year, we have been working tirelessly on exploring the concept of community paramedicine and evaluating how it could work in B.C.” said Bronwyn Barter, provincial president of APBC.  “As part of that exploration, we engaged two consultants who have worked extensively on evaluating community paramedicine in Ontario.”

Barter said that in the past year APBC has also partnered with the provincial government to include contract language to enable community paramedic programs in B.C.

“Our initial agreement includes eighty additional full-time equivalent positions to be allocated specifically for community paramedic positions,” Barter said. “Furthermore, we also agreed on allocating an additional $15 million towards the establishment of community paramedic programs.”

The APBC executive will be attending the upcoming UBCM conference and will be making themselves available to meet to discuss community specific needs for towns like Cranbrook.

Coun. Sharon Cross said there is a lot of potential for the program.

“This is part of a creative model in terms of addressing a number of municipalities’ concerns over lack of healthcare,” Cross said.

Stetski said paramedics have been taking a hit in the last couple years in terms of their compensation.

“So this is a way to keep professional paramedics actually working as paramedics,” Stetski said.