Residents in two of Saskatoon’s long-term care homes will soon have better access to enhanced health service support with the launch of a new pilot project inspired by Saskatoon Health Region’s Better Every Day 14 Day Challenge. The pilot is intended to deliver enhanced non-emergency and emergency medical services to residents at Luther Special Care Home and Porteous Lodge.

In the past three months, 200 residents from Saskatoon’s 30 long-term care homes were taken by ambulance to the Region’s hospital emergency departments. While some of these visits were the result of medical emergencies (e.g., heart attack, stroke), many others resulted in routine transfers for non-emergency procedures that could have been treated by paramedics at the residents’ bedside.

Although each long-term care facility in the city employs highly skilled healthcare professionals such as registered nurses, they are not always able to provide onsite treatment to residents. With the launch of the pilot project, scheduled to begin on March 9, one paramedic from MD Ambulance will be available to perform geriatric assessments at the pilot sites to determine if residents can be treated onsite (e.g., intravenous treatment for low blood sugar) or need to be transported by ambulance to the hospital.

Paramedic and ambulance

This paramedicine pilot project is meant to keep residents in long-term care homes off ambulance stretchers and in their own beds when they need non-emergency treatment. Photo courtesy MD Ambulance

“This is an opportunity for us to see if faster assessment and appropriate intervention can keep people out of our emergency departments,” says Rod MacKenzie, Director of Rural Integration, Emergency Medical Services and Acute Care Access Line, Saskatoon Health Region.

“It’s much better for the resident,” he continues. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense to take someone to hospital by ambulance and have them wait for care they can just as easily receive in the comfort of their own homes.”

The Region’s pilot is based on a model created in Nova Scotia called the Extended Care Paramedic (ECP) Program, which reports that after 41 weeks of implementation, ECPs responded to nearly 600 nursing home calls. Of these calls, 73 per cent of residents were treated on site instead of taken to hospital.

MacKenzie says the goal for the Region’s pilot is to decrease the need for ambulance transport from the pilot sites by 25 per cent within the next three months, as well as to prevent future emergency department visits by having the paramedics follow up with residents post-treatment.

“It’s meant to develop a long-term relationship with the client and to monitor their health over time,” says MacKenzie, adding that the process is an interprofessional initiative that will involve physicians and nurse practitioners to help identify opportunities and address challenges.

The next step in the process will be to add the service to personal care homes.

Saskatoon Health Region’s Better Every Day 14 Day Challenge Question of the Day concerns paramedicine: If you had a loved one in long-term care, would you be comfortable having a paramedic perform the initial assessment and treatment if appropriate? To respond, click here.

For more stories and information about the Better Every Day 14 Day Challenge, visit www.saskatoonhealthregion.ca/news.