Local paramedics expand services in response to pandemic

WELLINGTON COUNTY – Guelph-Wellington Paramedic Service (GWPS) continues to meet response time targets despite staffing challenges caused by paramedics infected by the COVID-19 virus.

Challenges due to the virus “have not significantly affected services to date,” stated Guelph-Wellington Paramedic Service Chief Stephen Dewar in a report to Wellington County’s Social Services Committee.

In addition to emergency response, GWPS is engaged in several projects to provide alternative services to the residents of Guelph and Wellington County, Dewar explained his report.

“Our paramedic service is just doing more than adhering to calls with people that are in distress that need to be delivered to different hospitals,” social services chair councillor Dave Anderson told county council on Jan. 28.

At the same time, said Anderson, “They continue to respond to all the emergency calls they’re getting. They’re still within the specs.”

Remote patient monitoring is one service provided through GWPS’ Community Paramedicine Program.

“It’s in place to reduce the emergency presentations at hospitals,” said Anderson.

Through the program, GWPS staff remotely monitor and assist patients with complex medical needs in the community.

“We are consistently monitoring between 40 and 60 patients at any time. This is designed to reduce the incidents of emergency presentations in these target patients,” notes Dewar in his report.

The service also continues to notify the Local Health Integration Network of patients who are identified to have needs beyond an emergency response through a patient referral project. Local paramedics completed over 500 referrals in 2020.

A new COVID-19 monitoring project by GWPS has received funding from the Guelph and Area, and Rural Wellington Ontario Health Teams. The idea is to monitor COVID-19 positive patients remotely in their homes.

“They’re monitoring COVID-19 positive patients remotely in their homes, particularly those that are vulnerable and at high risk of poor outcomes,” said Anderson, who noted the program is currently assisting anywhere from 15 to 30 patients.

GWPS has also assisted with monitoring of patients at the Caressant Care Arthur long-term care facility during a major COVID-19 outbreak in the facility.

Community paramedics have also been assisting Wellington Dufferin Guelph (WDG) Public Health in delivering flu vaccines, focusing on mobile services for patients with mobility issues such as long-term care residents.

“We were also able to offer vaccinations to our own paramedics and our fire department peers. To date, we have vaccinated more than 300 individuals,” Dewar stated in the report.

Community paramedics have assisted in the COVID-19 testing centres managed by local hospitals and, have assisted public health with mobile services to screen patients in long-term care facilities and patients with mobility issues in their homes.

“Community paramedics have completed over 5,000 nasal-pharyngeal swabs since the pandemic began,” Dewar notes.

Another new project, which began in December, involves a community paramedic monitoring local people who are waiting for placement in a long-term care facility. Monitoring involves regular home visits, phone call follow-ups and some technology-based remote monitoring

“The immediate identified need for this service was in the Wellington County area,” Dewar notes in his report.

“The community paramedics assigned to this project are currently working out of space in the Harriston fire hall, thanks to the support of the Minto Fire Department.”

Anderson noted the long-term care monitoring program has funding to continue until the end of March, but GWPS is applying for funding to keep it going on a long-term basis.

Dewar pointed out GWPS involvement in all of the above projects is dependent on the availability of staff.

“To their credit, Guelph-Wellington paramedics have made exceptional efforts during the pandemic to be available to assist with these important projects,” he stated.

Anderson said, “I congratulate Chief Dewar for working with the situation, adapting to it and still … being able to meet the time sensitive calls in order to get patients to hospitals.”