County Paramedics Branch into Palliative Care Component

By Christinck, Debbi; Local Journalism Initiative Reporter | The Canadian Press, September 11, 2020 | Go to article overview

County Paramedics Branch into Palliative Care Component


Christinck, Debbi, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Canadian Press


Pembroke -- Renfrew County paramedics may have another “utility in their Swiss army knife” by providing some palliative care services, but ensuring there is continuing funding for existing and new programs is a concern for some councillors.

“If ever the funding is taken away, it is very difficult to take the service away,” Greater Madawaska Mayor Brian Hunt cautioned during an overall discussion of the paramedic service at a ZOOM meeting of Renfrew County council last Wednesday. “If the government pulls back, we need to know this is the service we are providing and this is the cost.”

Admaston/Bromley Mayor Michael Donohue, who chairs the Health Committee, introduced the new palliative care component to the paramedic service.

“I’m enormously pleased to see this as the Baby Boom generation is entering its senior year and there is a recognition for the need of palliative care,” he said.

He shared about the evolution of the Community Paramedicine program, stating the service has been working with a palliative care team to incorporate a palliative care program as another way to continue to meet community needs.

“The intent of this program is not to be the primary palliative care service provider but to provide patient-centred care that is consistent with the patient’s goals of care,” he explained in the report. “Paramedics are often called to treat patients who would benefit from a palliative approach to care.

“Paramedics currently have limited capacity to treat in place and align care with the patient’s goals of care within the current structure of the Regional Paramedic Program of Eastern Ontario and the Ministry of Health,” he said. “The goal of the paramedic in the palliative care plan is to meet the patient’s care needs until the palliative care team can get in and continue patient care.”

He said Dr. Declan Rowan, chief of hospitalist medicine at the Pembroke Regional Hospital and Dr. Katie Forfar, palliative care and family physician at the Whitewater Bromley Community Health Centre, will be signing off on all medical directives including pain agitation, breathlessness, nausea, vomiting and subcut line insertion.

“Symptom management kits will be provided and will contain medications necessary for pain management of palliative patients. Consults will be available with a palliative care physician within the community,” he said in his report.

A Palliative Care Education Day had been planned for August 27 to be facilitated by multiple regional stakeholders including, Dr. Rowan, Dr. Forfar, Erin McCabe, RN, BScN, BHSc, Champlain Regional Palliative Consultation Team, Stephanie Knox, RN, BScN, palliative care coordinator Champlain LHIN and Dawn Cruchet, RN (ret.) grief and bereavement expert.

He also said an advance care paramedic joins the virtual hospice rounds once a week to maintain relationships and stay updated.

There was support for the changes but also a word of caution from others.

“I’m glad to see we keep adding to the utility of the Swiss army knife, as Mayor Donohue said in his remarks,” Reeve Peter Emon of Renfrew said.

He pointed out several unions have expressed concern about the heightened stress on staff with more add-ons to the services paramedics provide. …

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