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Hamilton eligible for new paramedic program for patients on long-term care wait lists

·2 min read

Hamilton may be eligible for a new program to support patients on the wait list for long-term care and their caregivers, the province announced Friday.

The community paramedicine program launched by the Ministry of Long-Term Care last month involves paramedics working outside their traditional roles to help seniors on long-term care wait lists stay at home longer. They can provide assessments and referrals, wellness clinics, home visits and remote monitoring.

“Paramedics can mobilize very quickly ... you have this skilled profession that can provide the services that people need especially on the medical side,” said Russell King, chief of paramedic services for Brantford-Brant, one of the first five communities to participate in the program when it launched.

On Oct. 30, the province announced up to $5 million to expand existing community paramedicine programs to provide at-home care to patients on long-term care wait lists. On Nov. 27, the province named 29 additional communities that could be eligible, including Hamilton, Halton Region, Norfolk County and Niagara Region.

Brantford-Brant is in the process of launching the program. Glen Cunnane, community paramedic supervisor, said the program will also support patients and families who decide not to pursue long-term care due to the spread of COVID-19 in facilities.

“There may be a little bit of hesitation there that may lead to more people staying at home,” he said, adding the program is expected to reduce emergency room visits by offering 24-7 access to care.

The program is fully funded by the province and will also offer home visits, ongoing monitoring, and referrals to home care and community resources.

To be eligible, the City of Hamilton must express interest to the ministry and meet other criteria. That includes the ability for the city’s existing community paramedic program to expand “quickly” to support its target population, having enough advanced care paramedics without compromising emergency services and the support of the LHIN.

“The long-term setting right now, there just quite simply is not enough beds for the demand,” said Cunnane. “That demand for admission into long-term care is going to continue to grow at a rate quicker than they’re going to be able to build capacity into the system.”

Maria Iqbal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator