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Community Paramedic Team coming to Grande Prairie

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Grande Prairie is getting a new paramedic team to help seniors and others in home and continuing care. Executive director of EMS for Alberta Health Service’s North Zone Dale Weiss says the team of four will respond to non-emergency medical calls, giving seniors and other vulnerable people the option to be treated at home.

“Where it’s very difficult to get out of their residence, and it’s very difficult for them in that when they arrive at a hospital they can actually contract a number of other things that are in that environment and make themselves worse.”

Weiss adds leaving their home can also be an issue for people with elderly spouses, family out-of-town, and disorders like Alzheimer’s Disease that can make a hospital visit traumatic.

Community paramedic teams were first launched in Alberta in Calgary in 2012, and expanded to Edmonton in 2014. The province announced Tuesday it is spending $11 million to add 20 full-time community paramedics to the 30 already working in those cities, and another 26 for new teams in Grande Prairie, Peace River, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Red Deer and Camrose/Wetaskiwin.

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“When we help Albertans avoid stressful trips to the emergency department, everyone wins,” says Associate Minister of Health Brandy Payne. “These paramedics are effective and compassionate frontline workers, helping Albertans get the right care at the right time, right in their own homes.”

Weiss says the Grande Prairie team will likely be based out of the current EMS station, but since it’s tight for space, it may need to be located out of another AHS building nearby. Three of the four community paramedics have already been found, and the province still hiring for a fourth.

“They spend a number of weeks in additional training over and on top of what they already have as a paramedic,” Weiss explains. “But these are integrated teams, and so they work with the continuing care sites and the medical staff they would have.”

The paramedics will consult with each person’s doctor, and also have the support of on-call physicians. Typically, a call for the team will come from the home care or continuing care facilities through a 1-800 number, but a non-urgent call could also be triaged through 9-1-1.

The new community paramedic teams in Grande Prairie and Peace River are expected to start up on March 26th.

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