Community paramedicine in the West Kootenay

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Lana Bond

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Salmo paramedics Lana Bond and Amy Chris.

Seniors in three communities in the West Kootenay living with chronic conditions may now have the support of a community paramedic visiting them in their homes on a regular basis. This service is part of BC Emergency Health Services’ (BCEHS) new community paramedicine program being rolled out in rural and remote communities throughout BC and includes Rossland, Fruitvale and Salmo.

Rossland’s community paramedic is Derek Wolfe, who joined the ambulance service in 2001 and was named unit chief in 2005. “In my 16 plus years working in Rossland, I’ve come to know many of the residents in our local area,” said Derek. “The community paramedicine program gives us the opportunity to support our older residents in managing their chronic diseases at home. At the same time, we’re able to increase outreach and awareness and promote community health through public education.”

Fruitvale’s community paramedic is Bryan Henry, who started his career with the ambulance service in 2002. “My first posting was in Fruitvale, but I’ve been attached to the ambulance station in Trail for nearly 14 years,” Bryan explained. Now I’m returning as a community paramedic to the village I’ve lived in for nearly 20 years. I believe the program will benefit our valley by complementing existing health services and I look forward to serving our seniors in this new capacity.”

Because of the proximity of the two towns, Derek and Bryan will be connecting with the same programs and resources through Interior Health and attending some of the meetings together. They will also collaborate on health promotion activities ranging from attending health-related community events, providing CPR seminars, or supporting doctors, nurses and other health professionals at wellness clinics for patients with specific health issues.

In Salmo, the two community paramedics are Lana Bond, who is also the ambulance station’s unit chief and Amy Chris. Lana has been a Salmo resident since 1994. She joined BCEHS as a paramedic in 2001 and was named unit chief in 2013. Amy is a more recent resident, moving to Salmo about four years ago. She has been a paramedic for 17 years, and started working in town this past March.

“I wanted to become a community paramedic to support our community,” Lana explained, “and to work with our seniors to help keep them healthy, in their homes and in the community, as long as possible.”

Amy is equally enthusiastic about her new role. “I have always loved living in rural BC,” she said. My husband and I chose to move from Fernie to Salmo to raise our son and have loved becoming part of this community. I’m grateful for the opportunity not only to work in Salmo, but to have such a meaningful role in the health and wellness of my community.”

With one of the objectives of the community paramedicine program being to help stabilize paramedic staffing, priority was given to rural and remote communities with the ambulance stations staffed by on call paramedics. This is true for all three communities, while the Trail ambulance station has full-time staff.

The four community paramedics recently completed a 14-week orientation program designed to help community paramedics develop the competencies for applying their current scope of practice in a primary health care setting and are now ready to provide services to patients in the community.

Patients are referred by their physician or a member of the local health care team, who are also responsible for determining the patient’s care plan. Services provided by the community paramedic include checking blood pressure, helping with diabetic care, identifying fall hazards in the home, medication self-management assessments, post-injury or illness evaluation and assisting with respiratory conditions.

For more information visit the BCEHS website at www.bcehs.ca and click on Our Services/Community Paramedicine.