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Community Paramedic Program finds new home, success in Leeds and Grenville

A Community Paramedic Program south of Ottawa has found success over the past year, visiting more than 1,000 area residents in their homes or virtually, reducing the strain on emergency calls.

The old Elizabethtown-Kitley fire station in Frankville, Ont. now serving as the new home for the program. 

"The way it works, is we get referrals from family physicians, health care teams, through the provincial portal with the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) programs as well as through 911 and paramedic referrals," said Jonathan Sylvester, Community Paramedic Outreach Program Superintendent.

"Patients are identified that need some extra support, and we're able to set up scheduled visits with community paramedics to see them in their homes in order to identify and look to support them with needs in order to stay at home, healthier and safer at home." 

The program offers a non-urgent response, using vehicles that look similar to an ambulance, saying 'Community Paramedic' on the side.

"We also have some smaller SUV's responding, no lights and sirens, into the community to do these visits," added Sylvester. 

Most of the patients are either waiting for a long-term care bed or have the potential to be in long-term care, with scheduled visits coming weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or over varying lengths of time, depending on their at home needs. 

"Some of the things we'll be doing is basic checks of vital signs, full assessments, we could do cardiac monitoring, looking at medication, medication compliance, medication adherence," Sylvester said. 

Other monitoring can be done remotely as well, helping paramedics keep a closer eye on patients, and then communicating those findings with their physicians or health care teams.

"By identifying those patients in the community we're able to perhaps keep them at home, healthier and with family longer, if that's their goal of care, in order to be waiting for that period of time where long-term care might become available for them," Sylvester said. 

An SUV used by Leeds and Grenville Paramedic Service for the Community Paramedic Program. (Nate Vandermeer/CTV News Ottawa)

The Community Paramedic Program visited clients in their homes more than 1,600 times in 2021, and conducted more than 300 virtual visits, managing to reduce 911 calls and emergency room visits.

"We've been fairly successful in that," said Leeds & Grenville Paramedic Service Chief Jeff Carss. "We've seen a drop in our repeat 911 calls, so we know that we're impacting those people significantly."

"One of the main goals that we were hoping for is that we could reduce 911 calls which in turn reduces hospital visits and hospital stays," Carss added. "Hopefully, we can keep people off their illness trajectory in their home and keep them safe in their home."

Carss says the program has also changed the way care is offered, by becoming proactive instead of reactionary.

"We respond to 911 calls or calls for service when they come in, this I think is the natural progression where we are moving to a preventative model, trying to help people and care of them before they become an emergency and they need that emergency transport and hospital care," he added. 

"The paramedics that are visiting in-home are paramedics with a lot of experience on the road, in the emergency setting," said Sylvester. "We're able to take what they know from an emergency, what causes an emergency, and almost reverse engineer that so that we can try and anticipate what some of those emergencies might be before they happen, put things into place before that emergency takes place, and we are able to keep them at home, out of the ER, out of the long-term care, out of an admitted bed in a hospital for much longer."

"Growth is exponential at this point. We have new intakes coming in every day, we are growing kind of leaps and bounds as far as both what we are able to do from an assessment standpoint as well as just our number of clients," he added. 

Leeds and Grenville Paramedic Service Chief Jeff Carss discusses the new Community Paramedic Program with Supt. Jonathan Sylvester on Thursday. (Nate Vandermeer/CTV News Ottawa)

The program offers home visitation 12 hours a day, seven days per week, with phone calls answered 24/7.

For those looking to receive in-home care, Sylvester says the best way is to ask their family physician or health care team, or a care coordinator within the LHIN, where they can request a referral.

"It's definitely a movement within paramedicine as a whole, it's expanding the scope," Sylvester added. 

Both men say families have praised the program, able to keep their loved ones closer, for longer.

"Very positive feedback, everybody's really happy with what is being provided," said Carss "The attention that we are afforded to give people in their home, allows them to stay in their homes."

"I think overall, most patients would say that's their goal, to stay at home, healthy and happy," added Sylvester. Top Stories

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