Community paramedic project launched

Aims to reduce ambulance and emergency calls

Rob Grierson and Karen Martin
Dr. Rob Grierson, medical director of the Winnipeg Fire and Paramedic Service, along with EPIC paramedic Karen Martin.

Winnipeg Health Region
Published Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Winnipeg Heath Region and the City of Winnipeg have launched a pilot project to reduce unnecessary calls for ambulance and hospital emergency department services.

Under the Emergency Paramedics in the Community program announced today, paramedics will provide medical assistance when needed to residents of two inner-city personal care homes and the Salvation Army building on Henry Avenue.

The initiative builds on the success of a similar program which involved stationing paramedics at the Main Street Project. Paramedics at the facility have provided medical assistance to clients with less-urgent heath issues at the facility since 2009, thereby reducing the need for ambulance trips to Emergency.

Arlene Wilgosh, President and CEO of the Winnipeg Health Region, said the Main Street Project experience demonstrates the important role community paramedics can play within the health-care system.

“During the first five months at Main Street Project, the paramedics saw 8,000 patients, out of which 161 were sent to an emergency room,” she said. “That’s a big drop from the 350 to 400 patients previously sent during the same time period.”

Arlene Wilgosh

Arlene Wilgosh next to the SUV to be used by the Emergency Paramedics in the Community program.

Dr. Rob Grierson, Medical Director of the Winnipeg Fire and Paramedic Service, said the community paramedics will provide assistance to high-frequency users of the system.  

“We have identified 60 common callers to the 911 system or who visit emergency rooms frequently,” said Grierson, noting that most of the 60 have chronic medical conditions or mental health issues. “By having the paramedics visit them when required, do a medical assessment and connect them to community health resources, this will reduce their dependence on ambulances and emergency rooms.”

Two of the Main Street Projects’ paramedics are being transferred to EPIC, bringing over 10,000 hours of experience providing primary care to a transient population. The EPIC paramedics will respond to 911 calls routed to them, or to calls from the individual patients.

“We’ll be working days only, taking turns,” said paramedic Karen Martin. “We travel to the patient, bringing equipment with us such as a cardiac monitor, IV start kit, airway kit. We do an assessment, and talk to the person about where they can go for further treatment. If necessary, we can call for an ambulance to transport them to emergency.”

The community paramedics will be directed by the Winnipeg Fire and Paramedic Services medical directors, to ensure patients receive the best possible care.

The partnership between the Winnipeg Health Region and the city ensures the patients receive care appropriate to their situation, said Reid Douglas, chief of the Winnipeg Fire and Paramedic Service. “This latest undertaking is intended to build on the efficiencies that already exist within our system, to ensure that patients in the community continue to receive the most appropriate pre-hospital medical response and follow-up medical intervention.”

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