Ontario to expand paramedicine program

Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews says the government will spend $6 million to expand the services paramedics provide across the province.

Paramedics will visit seniors, patients with chronic conditions

Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews says the province will spend $6 million to expand the services paramedics across the province provide.

Matthews says the community paramedicine programs will improve access to home care and support services for seniors and others with chronic conditions.

Under the program, paramedics will visit seniors who are known to make frequent calls for emergency services, a move Matthews says will prevent unnecessary ER visits and premature admission to long-term care.

Matthews says while paramedics are known for responding to emergency situations such as car crashes, they also have training and skills that could be useful in a home-care setting.

Their new duties could include such tasks as ensuring medications are taken properly, educating seniors about chronic disease management and referring people to other health services.

Matthews says such early intervention in Toronto has led to a 50 per cent reduction in 911 calls from patients getting the service and a 65 per cent reduction in trips to emergency rooms.

"It's all about providing the right care at the right time and in the right place," she said, adding that people often need help but might not need to go to the hospital.

"We want this happening in more places across the province," she said. "We want to see a better integration of paramedic care and the health care system."

The government says there are currently about 13 community paramedicine programs in the province and it will add 10 more  municipalities and EMS providers this year.

Under the plan, paramedics will work with teams of health professionals to co-ordinate care for seniors and patients with chronic conditions.

With files from The Canadian Press