You need help, so you call for an ambulance – not to get you to the hospital, but so the paramedics can deliver the care you need.

This innovative concept is called Community Paramedicine and has recently been introduced to Saskatoon. But it’s not a new concept for some of Saskatoon Health Region’s rural communities, who have been  partnering with local emergency services to support communities in health promotion and treatment for a few years now. Community Paramedicine enables EMS professionals to use their full scope of practice, focus on community prevention and wellness, and work collaboratively with healthcare professionals and community leaders to assist in the delivery of care in a variety of areas,” explains Sherri Solar, Manager for Pre-hospital Emergency Medical Services for Saskatoon Health Region. “It’s a concept that our smaller communities in the Region have utilized and valued.”

Specifically, five communities have partnered with local EMS personnel: Watrous and District Ambulance Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in Watrous; Shamrock Ambulance Care in Wadena; Rosthern and District Ambulance EMS in Rosthern; in Wynyard, Midway Ambulance Care; and in Wakaw, Wakaw and District EMS Ltd.

“Instead of waiting for the emergency to happen, we should be preventing it, which could ultimately save a life.  Home visits, Wellness Clinics, and educating the public are going to do just that for our community,” says Richelle Suter, a paramedic with Wakaw and District EMS Ltd.

Wonder what community paramedicine looks like? Here is a quick video showing it in action in Wakaw.

The scope of service provided by paramedics varies slightly, depending on the communities’ needs.

But in many instances, paramedics are working with home care in the areas of fall prevention programming, assessments, palliative care support, lift and transfer assistance, medication assistance, home safety checks, and Wellness Clinic support by taking a client’s blood pressure, blood glucose, pulse, compression stocking removal, oxygen levels and temperature checks, as needed.

For many of the paramedics involved in this work, the service allows them to provide care for those in need beyond emergency situations.

“I enjoy doing lift assists because it gives me an opportunity to do what I got into this business to do – help people,” says Stephan Koroluk, a primary care paramedic with Midway Ambulance Care in Wynyard.  “But it’s more than just helping. It’s about spending time and getting to know our clients. Being able to stay and chat with the family afterwards is great and our EMS team is treated just like family whenever we’re there making it always an enjoyable experience.”

The Karakochuk family is happy with the partnership between Home Care and Midway Ambulance that allows for their loved one to remain at home. Back, from left: Paramedic Stephen Koroluk, Continuing Care assistant Melody Stefanson, Judy Karakochuk. Front: Adolph and Margret Karakochuk.

The Karakochuk family is happy with the partnership between Home Care and Midway Ambulance that allows for their loved one to remain at home. Back, from left: Paramedic Stephen Koroluk, Continuing Care assistant Melody Stefanson, Judy Karakochuk. Front: Adolph and Margret Karakochuk.

Koroluk adds paramedics also get to learn and better understand other aspects of health care and what other care providers do day to day, including home care worker, and advance their own skills.

“Doing lifts also helps me keep up with lifting techniques,” he says. “This work allows me to go out and help people in their day-to-day lives in a way that is different from the emergency aspect of the job and helps me feel like an important part of the community.”

That feeling of community also helps better assist emergency teams in times of crisis.

“By getting more involved with the community, the people we serve get to know us and trust us better and are able to communicate with us more freely when they are in a time of need,” says Doug Penner, a paramedic with Wakaw and District EMS Ltd. “Paramedics have always tried to do projects in the community to make ourselves seen and known by the people we serve.”

These are sentiments echoed by paramedics in other communities, including Gabrielle Sackville who works with the Karakochuck family in Wynyard. Over the past year, Adolph Karakochuk has been losing his independent mobility, and was becoming too heavy for his family alone to care for. After two falls, the family decided they needed to bring in home care to help with his personal care. In December, home care decided that two people were needed to lift him, and community paramedics were called on to help with lifts and transfers in his home.

Keeping Adolph at home with his family would not have been possible without the help of the paramedics, the family has stated.

“We could not do this on our own and he does not want to be in long-term care,” said the family.

“It has made a huge difference” says daughter Judy. “It has made the family life easier, as they know that there are trained capable people there to provide the service for our dad. We would recommend and suggest this partnership with home care and the paramedics to anyone.”

This service, they added, shows the community a different side to the paramedics.

“There are here for us even when it is not an emergency,” the family said. “Now they know us, they know are family.”

“Being part of Wynyard’s community paramedicine project has given me a better appreciation for different parts of health care and strengthened my own skills as a paramedic,” explained Sackville. “I’ve enjoyed getting to know the Karakochuk family very much. Not a day has gone by that they haven’t expressed their sincerest appreciation for what we do.”

“There are STARS in the air, but these paramedics are the stars of our town,” said Margret Karakochuk.