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Paramedics may soon provide homecare to terminal patients

Move would allow people to die at home, and ease burden on emergency departments

A report headed to the emergency services committee next week says paramedics in Greater Sudbury have received specialized training to allow them to treat terminally ill patients in their homes.

The report says 59 per cent of people in Greater Sudbury with a terminal illness visited Health Sciences North's emergency room at least once in the month before they passed away.

“In Canada, of those who have a preference, 75 per cent wish to die at home or receive their care at home in the last weeks and days of life,” the report says.

“Despite this, Statistics Canada reports 70 per cent die in hospital and most will visit an emergency department. Paramedics facilitate over half of these emergency department visits. 

“Emergency departments tend to be loud, busy, overcrowded, and are often stressful for patients receiving palliative care who are often seeking urgent symptom control.” 

Because the trips to the ER are usually related to pain control and other end-of-life issues, the report says paramedics can offer care in the patient's home, a better environment for everyone.

“Evidence shows that having paramedics provide palliative care and end-of-life care in the home improves comfort and quality of life for people with debilitating illnesses, as well as their families,” the report says. “It also reduces the number of avoidable trips to the hospital and the use of health system resources, such as hospital beds and emergency departments.”

Paramedics are trained in a new curriculum called 'LEAP for Paramedics' (LEAP – Learning Essentials and Approaches to Palliative Care). The program was developed in 2014 in Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.

Traditionally, paramedics stabilize patients and take them to hospital, so have not been trained on treating people at home, and don't receive background medical information or treatment plans for their patients.

“The recent announcement that an expanded scope for paramedics will soon be approved by the Ministry of Health lends opportunity to care for our community patients who are choosing to palliate at home,” the report says. “Paramedics will soon play a larger role in palliative care and we will be working with palliative care providers here in Sudbury to work on roles, processes and clinical directives in the upcoming months. This is a great example of co-ordinated care for northerners across the full continuum of care.”

Read the full report here.


Darren MacDonald

About the Author: Darren MacDonald

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