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Hastings-Quinte EMS’ homecare program comes to an end

By Matthew Murray [1]

BELLEVILLE – A 60 patient home-care pilot program run by Hastings-Quinte EMS [2] has come to an end after one year of working in the community.

The program began last January and ended on Saturday.  It had a team of paramedics visit patients’ homes and give basic care such as checkups and administering medications. Patients were chosen based on the number of 911 calls they had placed in 2014 and their medical conditions.

A research component was also involved with Quinte EMS’ program. Carl Bowker, deputy chief of operations at Hastings-Quinte EMS, says a report on the research program and its impacts won’t be ready until April. He hopes the paramedicine program will be able to make a comeback once the report comes out, he added. Hastings-Quinte EMS do these studies to generate evidence-based data and data is harder to ignore than speculation, said Bowker.

John O’Donnell, chief of Hastings-Quinte EMS, says the organization reached out to the Ontario Ministry of Health for funding to continue the program. It asked the government to allow it to keep a portion of the $45 ambulance ride fee that usually goes to the province and hospitals.  [3] That fee would help keep the $225,000 program alive.

The ministry has not responsed to Quinte EMS’s request to share the ambulance fee, said O’Donnell. When the report about the project is finished in April, O’Donnell said he hopes the Ministry of Health will reconsider the funding request.

The South East Location Health Integration Network [4] was also approached for funding to keep the program afloat. The Local Health Integration Network decided to hold off on funding the program, O’Donnell said, until the report comes out and the economic value and impact of the program can be determined.

Even though the program is out of money, Quinte EMS hasn’t abandoned the patients. Bowker said the patients were made well aware of the program’s end date after one year and that there was no guarantee it would continue to run.

Bowker said EMS is also putting together a transition plan for the program’s patients which involves offering a remote patient monitoring device for six months. The device remains in the patient’s home and is linked to an online account. This would allow Quinte EMS to check up on them online and would offer home visits if things like a patient’s blood pressure or blood sugar levels become abnormal.

“We didn’t want to embark on something like this feeling that we were going to leave somebody abandoned or on their own,” said Bowker.