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Expanding Services to Improve Access for Palliative Clients and Families

Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority, working in conjunction with the Paramedic Association of Manitoba (PAM), will be one of the seven health-care service delivery organizations across Canada to collaborate with the Canadian Foundation for Health Care Improvement (CFHI) and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (the Partnership) in their Paramedics and Palliative Care: Bringing Vital Services to Canadians program.

The program is part of the national organizations’ ongoing efforts to expand the accessibility of palliative and end of life care in clients’ homes. These federal partners are investing more than $700,000 in Interlake-Eastern RHA and providing additional support to expand the region’s existing palliative care service.

“This innovative, new practice is a great example of the kind of work being done across the country to develop health-care delivery models that bring care closer to home for many patients," said Minister of Health, Seniors, and Active Living Cameron Friesen. “This investment will allow paramedics in the Interlake-Eastern health region to enhance their skills and improve access to palliative care for Manitobans in the region while also allowing residents the option of receiving that care in the comfort of their home.”

Co-sponsors, Karen Stevens-Chambers, Interlake-Eastern RHA’s vice president of community services and chief allied health officer, and Eric Glass, PAM’s administrative director, noted there are three goals for this project:

  • enhancing the palliative care skills of paramedics to build confidence and competencies when providing palliative care at home;
  • building upon existing partnerships among primary care physicians and members of the palliative care, home care and paramedic teams to ensure a consistent and collaborative approach to client care; and
  • providing access to after-hours care at home for palliative clients and families as an alternative to emergency department visits.

Glass said participating in the project provides an opportunity for paramedics, working within their current scope of practice, to bridge the gap in at-home palliative care services until other care team members can take over.

“Expanding paramedics’ knowledge of palliative care best practices means they will be equipped with an enhanced set of skills when responding to calls from clients who choose to receive palliative and end of life care after hours at home. Paramedics can ensure that clients and families have access to palliative care regardless of the time of day,” Glass said. “This is a natural evolution for paramedicine as it builds upon paramedics’ existing skills and their desire to provide appropriate care and comfort to both the palliative clients that do not wish to be transported to an emergency room for care and the families that are caring for them at home.”

The project will result in improved client care by establishing and enhancing collaboration among care providers and ensuring improved access to appropriate resources, according to Stevens-Chambers.

“Doctors, nurses, paramedics and other members of client care teams will work together to deliver consistent palliative and end of life care based on care plans that are personalized to each client’s wishes and health-care needs. We are grateful for this opportunity to work with PAM and our federal partners to help us enhance our support of people who wish to receive care and comfort at home,” Stevens-Chambers said.

Interlake-Eastern RHA’s project is in the initiation stage and is expected to take approximately three years to complete. The project will be phased in and it will include training paramedics across the region and building processes and infrastructure required to connect health-care providers. To ensure project success, stakeholders will be engaged as needed through different stages in the project.

Reviews of similar programs established with the support of CFHI and the Partnership have found that having paramedics provide palliative and end of life care to people in their home improved the experience, comfort and quality of life of the client and their families and reduced avoidable trips to emergency departments and admissions to hospital for clients who wished to die at home.

Background - Expanding palliative care services

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