A new program called community paramedicine aims to give residents in some Vancouver Island communities better access to healthcare services, where paramedics will attend housecalls as well as 911 emergencies.

B.C. Emergency Health Services says four communities, including Ucluelet, Tofino, Cortes Island and Port Hardy will have access to the paramedicine program that will result in 80 more paramedic jobs.

Community paramedicine will has two main objectives, according to Linda Lupini, executive vice president of B.C. Emergency Health Services.

"It will stabilize paramedic staffing in these communities, and it will also help bridge healthcare service delivery gaps that exist in the communities.

Towns in Ontario and Nova Scotia have implemented a similar program, according to Lupini. 

A solution for rural communities

Maintaining regular paramedic staffing is an issue for many remote communities because 911 call volumes are much lower than they are in urban centres, says Lupini.

"So the staffing is usually done with on-call staff. So in some of the communities on the island for example, you may have 15 or 16 paramedics, but they're on call."

The community paramedicine program will give those communities access to regular staffing for paramedics, who will attend routine and minor calls in addition to emergency calls.

"This program would allow us to hire full-time employees, and part of the time they would be doing this work in the community as a community paramedicine employees, and other parts of the week they would be answering 911 calls."

Aging at home

This program will benefit the elderly population in rural areas because they will soon be able to receive medical care at home, instead of at a hospital.

Lupini says seniors should not have to be taken to clinics or hospitals for minor health concerns.

"These are really gaps in the system. The idea is to allow people to be in their homes, to age in their homes."

To listen to the full audio, click the link labelled: Community Paramedicine aims to give rural residents better healthcare.