By Keith McNeill
Two Clearwater-based paramedics, Mikael Kjellstrom and Dan Daase, are about to expand their roles from emergency ambulance attendants to helping those with chronic and complex diseases.
“It’s an initiative to make rural paramedicine more attractive,” said Kjellstrom of his new role with B.C.’s innovative community paramedicine program.
“We won’t be replacing any existing services, but augmenting and filling in the gaps,” said Daase.
The pair will be helping those who suffer from chronic diseases such as heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes and possibly hypertension (high blood pressure).
Tasks will include doing home visits, fall assessments for those at risk of falling, home safety inspections, wellness clinics, and educational initiatives.
In order to qualify for the program, both first needed to be qualified as primary care paramedics with intra-venous endorsement.
Both are also long-time residents of the North Thompson Valley.
The 14-week community paramedic orientation program is put on by the Justice Institute and BC Emergency Health Services.
Kjellstrom has completed his training and will start next week working two days a week as a community paramedic. Daase will start in early January, also at two days a week.
“It’s a really good training program. I’m learning a lot that I didn’t know before,” Daase commented.
“The people we’ll be visiting will be referred to us by their healthcare team,” said Kjellstrom. “If people want us to call on them, they should discuss it with their doctor.”
The pair have a vehicle provided to them to do their visits. Although not set up to carry patients, it is fully equipped with first aid supplies so they will be ready if called away to an emergency.
Community paramedics will not be called if they are on duty in the community unless there is a significant incident and they are the closest responder.
Community paramedicine has proven itself effective in Prince Edward Island, Ontario and Australia.
According to the provincial program’s website, the community paramedicine initiative was launched in April, 2015 with three prototype projects in Northern Health. This was followed with two in Interior Health and four in Island Health.
A province-wide rollout began in April 2016 with the announcement of 76 communities (including Clearwater and Blue River) that will be served with regular part-time community paramedics.
It appears that Blue River’s community paramedic has not yet been chosen.
Finding and retaining qualified paramedics to serve in rural and remote communities has been an ongoing problem in B.C.
At the same time, those same communities often have aging populations living with chronic and complex diseases.
The province’s community paramedicine program has two objectives: stabilize paramedic staffing in rural and remote communities, and help bridge health care service delivery gaps.
The community paramedicine project is targeted to deploy 80 full-time equivalent paramedics to rural and remote B.C. communities by March 2018.