Province must step up to ensure continued success of innovative paramedic pilot for seniors

By Joli Scheidler-Benns

Kawartha Lakes launches Community Paramedic Pilot Program
Registered nurse Christina Janke discusses patients with paramedic Julie Milne.

For just over five months seniors at risk in Kawartha Lakes have had paramedic Julie Milne in their corner – and it’s made all the difference in the world to them.

Milne, of Kawartha Lakes Paramedic Services (KLPS), spoke to Kawartha Lakes City Council yesterday at the committee of the whole meeting to share her experiences about the community paramedic pilot program. She 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.

Milne says there are still 25 people under her care, and she shared powerful stories about the 62 patients she had served over the last five months.

One female in Lindsay in her 80s lives alone and suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure, and is often in the hospital for treatment. During the last five months she never had to call 911 and had no emergency department visits.

Another lady in Bobcaygeon was a frequent hospital user and suffers from mental health issues and a tendency to hoard. Although she usually turns away help, Milne was able to convince her that she could support her and help her access services in the community. Again there was no use of 911 during this time, or emergency department visits. The woman also consented to receive mental health supports.

Many of those served by Milne reported feeling less social isolation and enjoyed having her for company when she checked in on them regularly.

As of March 1, 62 patients were serviced through 481 visits plus phone calls. The average age was 80 and 58 per cent of those served were women.

Most tellingly perhaps was that 71 per cent of those seniors referred were able to stay at home, preventing hospital visits. Prior to the pilot, the average stay for these patients would be 9.7 days at $388 per day – or more than $3,763 per incident.

The Advocate first broke the story in December 2018 about seniors in our area who were falling through the cracks and not getting the care they needed. Soon after, council stepped up to provide funding until December 31st to paramedics to try and address these needs in a Pilot that began in October 2019.

The area’s Local Health Integration Network (Central East LHIN), which is funded by the province, kicked in the $25,000 to extend the program through March. Now, it’s been six months and the city is waiting for the province to step up to fund this initiative long-term to ensure its survival.

Its continuation makes sense to Milne and to the councillors who spoke up after hearing her presentation.

Councillor Doug Elmslie put a motion forward to have the City cover the costs of the pilot until other funding could be found. Council will decide on this at the next regular council meeting, schedule for March 24th.

“I don’t think we can let this end,” says Elmslie. “It’s too valuable.”

Councillor Pat Dunn and Mayor Andy Letham also expressed a desire to see this pilot become a program.

Letham asked Milne if she could get a message to the minister of health, what would that message be?

“It works,” says Milne, who 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.

Hallway Medicine

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.

The community paramedic pilot was a test to see if patients could be helped at home with regular care and a check-in from a paramedic. The Kawartha Lakes Family Health Care Team, Ross Memorial Hospital, Community Care and the Central East LHIN were all involved in the pilot.

To register your support for the pilot call local MPP Laurie Scott’s office at 705-324-6654, or email .

–with files from Roderick Benns.

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