At the regular council meeting on March 19, council extended the community paramedic pilot program that was set to expire at the end of the month.
The program was created to help reduce patient re-admission with a focus on seniors at Ross Memorial Hospital in Lindsay.
The paramedics have completed the first six months of the program with significant positive outcomes for patients. At the last committee of the whole meeting, Councillor Doug Elmslie asked staff to present options for continuing to fund the program.
“Helping residents stay out of the hospitals is a priority, especially now in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic,” commented Councillor Kathleen Seymour-Fagan.
The program will be funded at a cost of $75,000 for an additional nine-month period. It will be funded through an existing efficiency grant from the province of Ontario.
Sara Johnston, deputy chief, professional standards, for the paramedic Ssrvice commented, “In the past six months, this program has reduced the number of 911 calls, visits to the emergency department, re-admissions and length of stay in hospital for over 60 patients living in our community. We all have a common goal to help people stay in their homes independently for as long as possible and this announcement allows us to continue to support some of our most vulnerable residents.”
“I’m very glad to hear that this program is being extended,” said Christina Janke, transitional care connector, Ross Memorial Hospital. “When we have difficult discharges with complex patients, this program really helps give our physicians and staff an extra level of comfort to know that the patient is still being cared for.”
Julie Milne was the lead (and only) paramedic who was assigned to the pilot to determine if better health outcomes for seniors was possible. Another goal was to prevent further hospital visits and prolonged stays.
“It works,” Milne told a recent committee off the whole meeting at council chambers. She noted it made a big difference to the seniors she served to see a familiar face on a regular basis.
The paramedics are continuing to advocate for funding from the LHIN or directly from the province in some other way.
Hospitals across Canada are dealing with an increase in practicing so-called hallway medicine because of a lack of funding. As well, at Ross Memorial Hospital there are many patients waiting for long term care spots who remain at the hospital for an average of 180 days at an average cost of $388 per day.