British Columbia

B.C. paramedics receive $1 million in new funding to provide in-home palliative care

B.C. Emergency Health Services announced Tuesday it is receiving just under $1 million in funding to train more paramedics to deliver palliative care.

B.C. EHS one of 6 health services chosen for palliative care training program

B.C. Emergency Health Services will receive just under $1 million for a program dedicated to training paramedics to provide in-home palliative care to terminally ill patients. (Shaun Best/Reuters)

B.C. Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) announced Tuesday it is receiving just under $1 million in funding to train more paramedics to deliver palliative care. 

The funds will go towards educating paramedics to provide in-home assessment and treatment of patients with terminal illnesses such as cancer, which should help reduce unnecessary trips to the hospital.

"The role of paramedics is becoming more multi-faceted and we are encountering these types of patients that we know we can do better for," said Leon Baranowski, paramedic practice leader for BCEHS.

Paramedics will be trained to support patients' existing care plans, assist with pain management, and co-ordinate with local palliative care doctors and nurses.

Money to fund expansion

Some paramedics are already trained to provide palliative care, said Baranowski, but the new money will allow the service to greatly expand the number of qualified paramedics across the province.

The funding comes from two non-profits, the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer and the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement (CFHI), and will last for the next four years.

It's part of a larger national program providing a total of $5.5 million to train more than 5,000 paramedics across the country. The funding will be divided among five other health services: two in Ontario, and one each in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The B.C. program will be similar to existing programs already operating in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Alberta.

"The three provinces with this program have proven they can provide the most appropriate care to palliative patients in the right place and at the right time," BCEHS transformation officer Nancy Kotani said in a statement.

Equipping paramedics with the knowledge to provide palliative care improves the quality of life and comfort of patients with debilitating illnesses, according to he Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement (Canadian Press)

Evidence shows that having paramedics provide palliative and end-of-life care improves comfort and quality of life for patients and their families, according to a CFHI news release.

It can also help to avoid unnecessary trips to the hospital and therefore reduce strain on public health resources such as hospital beds and emergency departments, it said.

Avoiding unnecessary ER trips

Baranowski said the program will allow the service to better implement a 2017 ministerial order permitting paramedics to provide care to patients in their homes.

Before the order, Baranowski said, paramedics had few options beyond taking patients to the hospital. If a patient refused, paramedics were not allowed to provide things like pain medication.

"This allows paramedics to have another pathway and option for patients now that can be paramedic-led," said Baranowski, who will be helping to implement the program.

Baranowski said BCEHS is still working out the details.

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