With plans to expand and a new award under their belt, organizers of Simcoe County's community paramedicine program have a lot to celebrate.
At the end of September, the county was awarded the Board Award through the Association of Family Health Teams of Ontario (AFHTO) annual conference, in recognition of collaboration to ensure the success of community paramedicine as part of the inter-professional primary care team.
The award is only one of a number of strides made to the innovative program in the past year.
“We’ve been working for the last year or so on a program expansion,” said Kyle MacCallum, community paramedicine co-ordinator. “The program adds that additional training for the staff out there, too. It’s been a very exciting year.”
In March, county councillors were provided with a five-year plan to expand the program.
“Avoiding 911 calls and exacerbation for these patients is really important. Being able to do those aspects of care they could get in emergency or in a doctor’s office at home is really what we’re after,” said MacCallum.
The program currently consists of three functions: referrals, home visits, and frequent caller follow-ups.
Referrals connects patients with health and community services based on issues identified by paramedics during 911 calls. To date, more than 3,900 referrals have been received and processed with over 60 per cent resulting in patients receiving new or increased services. This part of the service is offered county-wide.
Home visiting currently provides at-home chronic disease management for 100 patients in the Simcoe County Northeast zone (Orillia, as well as Ramara and Oro-Medonte townships). Staff who are out in the community perform the visits between emergency calls.
In November, the project will be expanded to the North Zone (Midland, Penetanguishene and Tiny Township).
“We added five staff members to support that expansion,” said McCallum.
Looking to the future of the program, Barrie is currently engaged in discussions with several partner organizations to secure funding for a three-year research pilot to expand the home visit program into their city. Plans are also underway to roll the program out in all remaining municipalities within the next five years.
Beginning in November 2018, County of Simcoe Paramedic Services piloted frequent caller follow-up in Bradford West Gwillimbury, New Tecumseth and Adjala-Tosorontio Township. Frequent callers are those who have utilized paramedic services five or more times in the previous 12 months.
Plans are underway to expand this part of the program also county-wide within the next three years.
The program now receives $236,861 in ongoing base funding from the North Simcoe Muskoka Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) and $36,000 in ongoing base funding from the Central LHIN to run its operations.
According to the county staff report from March, the program has resulted in increased availability of paramedics leading to improved response times and may assist paramedic services in meeting the increasing needs of the growing seniors population.
For more information on the community paramedicine program, click here.