Expanded roles for paramedics being considered by N.L. health minister

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Paramedics can — and should be — doing more, especially in rural areas, according to Newfoundland and Labrador’s health minister.

“What we’re looking to do is to see how we can utilize them better in the community and we think there’s a real role for them in that,” said John Haggie.

‘It would be an additional service, instead of robbing Peter to pay Paul, sort of thing.’ – Health Minister John Haggie

He points to Gander as an example, where 50 per cent of ambulance calls come from personal care homes for seniors.

“Of those calls, a full 80 per cent of them could be triaged and treated by certainly an advanced care paramedic, within their own personal care home — they wouldn’t need to be transported,” Haggie said.

“So there is a huge potential in that kind of arena for keeping folk at home.”

Ambulance file photo CBC

Haggie says there is ‘huge potential’ for expanding the role of paramedics, especially in rural areas. (CBC)

There are other places in the country where paramedics are making house calls, Haggie said.

“Communities in Nova Scotia have used paramedics to go around and do home visits … and do things like blood pressure checks and blood sugar checks,” he said.

“Where it has been tried, the initial results are very encouraging, for both of those categories.”

Hurdles to clear

Haggie is eager to launch a pilot project in this province, but there are some issues that have to be sorted first.

The province is working with the group responsible for licensing paramedics to clarify the framework and scope of practice for that profession, he said.

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Haggie says paramedics could do home visits and check blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Another issue is the fact that training for advanced care paramedics is not offered in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Next, said Haggie, is finding communities who want to give this a shot.

“I know [Cape St. George] Mayor Peter Fenwick is certainly interested … so we’re hoping that will help drive change,” said Haggie.

‘Very useful’ for people who aren’t mobile

But it isn’t just Cape St. George that could potentially benefit.

“Community-trained paramedics would be a very good place to fit, in that they tend to be mobile individuals by the nature of their job and it would also be very useful for people whose own mobility may be limited,” Haggie said.

peter fenwick Cape St. George Atlantic Minerals workers lockout

Haggie says Cape St. George Mayor Peter Fenwick, pictured here, has already expressed an interest in how the expanded roles of paramedics could benefit his community. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

Haggie stressed if this initiative gets off the ground, it would be above and beyond the duties of a paramedic assigned to handle emergency calls.

“It would be an additional service, instead of robbing Peter to pay Paul, sort of thing,” he said.

Taken from: 

Expanded roles for paramedics being considered by N.L. health minister

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