Two part-time community paramedics have been hired for the Valemount and McBride communities, respectively, and the new hires are going through orientation.

In April 2016, the provincial government announced the first 73 rural communities, including McBride and Valemount, that would be implementing the community paramedicine program. By its end, the program will see the creation of 80 full-time equivalent paramedic positions.

“The feedback from our front-line paramedics has been overwhelmingly positive,” reads a statement from B.C. Emergency Health Services (BCEHS).

“Local health care teams in rural communities have been very involved in developing the scope of this program,” it says.

Community paramedicine broadens the traditional focus of paramedics on pre-hospital emergency care to include disease prevention, health promotion and basic health-care services, the statement reads.

This means a paramedic will visit rural patients in their home or community, perform requested assessments by the referring health-care professional, and record their findings to be included in the patient’s file, according to BCEHS, and paramedics will also be able to teach skills such as CPR at community clinics.

With the announcement, services paramedics may provide in-home are extended to include blood pressure checks, assisting with diabetic care, helping to identify fall hazards, medication assessment, post-injury or illness evaluation, and assisting with respiratory conditions, according to the BCEHS.

Community paramedics will visits patients referred by a physician or other health care provider on a scheduled basis, BCEHS says.

“By building upon the skills and background of paramedics, we are empowering them to expand access to care for people who live in rural and remote communities,” says Health Minister, Terry Lake.

“This helps patients get the care they need closer to home,” he says.

The enhanced role of paramedics is not intended to replace care provided by health professionals such as nurses, BCEHS says, but rather to complement and support the daily work they do, delivered in non-urgent settings, in patients’ homes or in the community.

“We are in the early stages of implementation phase of the community paramedicine program in Northern B.C.,” says BCEHS. “We expect to have community paramedics caring for patients in their homes by the end of 2016.”

The goal of the community paramedicine program, according to BCEHS, is to:

•   Provide better access to health care;

•   Bridge gaps in health care services;

•   Reduce the number of medically unnecessary 911 calls and trips to ERs.

While the hours at the Valemount Clinic are being reduced, the province says the two are not synonymous, as community paramedics are being hired to complement and support the work of health care teams, not replace them.

Paramedics are paid based on their license-level and seniority as per the Collective Agreement.