Medavie Health Services Messenger

Our belief is in a better life for the communities we serve.

Caring for all Canadians – Medavie supports northern communities in partnership with Indigenous Services Canada

0

Doug Pamment steered his snowmobile toward a far corner of the frozen Ontario lake, on the outskirts of Fort Hope, to settle in for a few hours of ice fishing. The vast, snowy landscape stretched for seemingly endless kilometres. He and Nuka, his husky-shepherd mix, scanned for the right spot to cast a line and enjoy a mid-winter lunch.

Not a bad way to spend a day off.

Paramedic Doug Pamment in Fort Hope, Ontario

Doug is among the paramedics helping increase access to care for people living in remote Indigenous communities across northern Ontario and Manitoba. Having spent two decades in the British Army and serving combat tours in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo, he has “never had a problem” stepping out of his comfort zone.

Using a team-based approach, paramedics like Doug are using their unique skillsets and training to provide direct patient care and consultation beyond hospital walls, while assisting with local health care programs and bringing surge capacity response with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through a contract by Indigenous Services Canada, the initiative has seen Medavie Health Service draw on its longstanding expertise in mobile integrated health and community paramedicine, an evolving model of care that expands the traditional role of a paramedic to assist with public health initiatives, primary health care and preventive services. In communities across Canada, paramedics are helping to bring high-quality care directly to patients, when and where they need it; increasing capacity in our health systems.

In small communities, public services can be integrated in unique ways.

They draw on their skills and training in crisis response when leading trauma responses in the communities, supported by their local colleagues, which can even include coordinating air ambulance medivacs in challenging weather conditions. While caring for a patient being evacuated, Doug recalled setting aside a pair of gloves momentarily only to find they quickly shattered from the cold. “Oh, I am really far away from normal life right now,” he thought.

The role of paramedics continues to evolve in these communities, influenced heavily by local needs and considerations. Work can be varied beyond the clinical environment, from providing community elders with various health and safety training to COVID-19 testing and mitigation across the community.

During Manon’s time in Gods River, she became the local COVID-19 contact authority and public health educator, a role focused on the implementation of safety protocols and managing aspects of the community’s testing for the virus. She also compiled weekly health information newsletters on COVID-19, flu clinics, general hand hygiene and shared the information on local radio. The impact was immediate: the community’s flu clinic saw record turnout.

Paramedic Valérie Bordeau enjoys northern Manitoba’s great outdoors.

The paramedics who have answered the call work on rotations, which can last two weeks to several months, are working alongside First Nations and Inuit Health Branch-employed nurses.

Manon Timshel, a Portage la Prairie, Manitoba paramedic jumped at this opportunity to work outside of her typical scope as a paramedic — and support underserved communities. Within hours, she had filled out an application and was ready to take on the challenge.

During an early rotation, Manon was stationed in Gods River where she quickly bonded with a local charge nurse. Together, they began coordinating how to use their complementary medical skillsets to best meet local patient needs.  

The Northern Lights are not an uncommon sight.

Valerie Bodeleau of Quebec, Chris Wood of Nova Scotia, Josh Riccituo of Ontario and dozens of others also embraced the opportunity. Each chose to go beyond their traditional roles and comfort zones (and into a colder climate) to hone their skills and advance their profession, all while ensuring people within the communities they serve have access to a trained health care professional.

Their work in Canada’s North does not match how frontline health care providers are generally depicted or perceived ― answering urgent calls with lights flashing and sirens wailing.

There are no 911 dispatches. Most of their time is spent working with local health professionals at their community’s nursing station to support daily tasks ensuring patients access the care they require.

On an average day, the paramedics provide a broad spectrum of family medicine services, from assessing a patient’s health and providing advice on medications, to performing routine bloodwork and examining infections ― even treating dental problems. The work always keeps them on their toes.

They draw on their skills and training in crisis response when leading trauma responses in the communities, supported by their local colleagues, which can even include coordinating air ambulance medivacs in challenging weather conditions. While caring for a patient being evacuated, Doug recalled setting aside a pair of gloves momentarily only to find they quickly shattered from the cold. “Oh, I am really far away from normal life right now,” he thought.

A view inside local clinics and of PPE requirements for paramedics in managing COVID-19.

The role of paramedics continues to evolve in these communities, influenced heavily by local needs and considerations. Work can be varied beyond the clinical environment, from providing community elders with various health and safety training to COVID-19 testing and mitigation across the community.

During Manon’s time in Gods River, she became the local COVID-19 contact authority and public health educator, a role focused on the implementation of safety protocols and managing aspects of the community’s testing for the virus. She also compiled weekly health information newsletters on COVID-19, flu clinics, general hand hygiene and shared the information on local radio. The impact was immediate: the community’s flu clinic saw record turnout.

She and the other paramedics have strived to get to know their work colleagues and community members, focusing on listening to their needs and identifying where they can be the most help. Building trust is recognized as an important first step in forming relationships.

The paramedics working on rotation are being recognized for the value they’re adding as health care professionals. There have been many moments of thanks and recognition from community members seeking out their advice. One paramedic was even treated to a birthday party and local animals like Nuka, Inuit for little sister, have become fast friends.

Time off creates opportunities to explore Canada’s north, including ice fishing in -40c. Local dogs like Nuka can provide company.

The paramedics have been struck by the rich culture, history and beauty of communities and their isolated locations ― hidden from the rest of the world.

All see the opportunity to adapt their field’s skills and expertise outside of their traditional roles long after the pandemic ends.

This model of paramedicine is growing exponentially across the country. In the process, it is enhancing the ability of health care systems to deliver care to people at the right place and right time. By integrating with other health care providers in communities, large and small, paramedics are helping to prevent unnecessary emergency department visits, reduce hospital admissions and expand long-term care options for the vulnerable and underserved.

The impact of their work is especially felt by small rural communities, often separated by vast distances. The additional resources can improve the efficiency of care delivery for local patients and ultimately create more accessible points of entry into the care system.

Seasonal scenes greeting paramedics and community members in and around Fort Hope.

Manon summed up the impact of their work. “Paramedics are the boots on the ground, always thinking about the needs of the community. This kind of paramedicine is a direct example of how we can fill gaps in health care systems and really help people.”

Are you a Primary or Advanced Care Paramedic interested in this rare opportunity to make a meaningful difference for Canadians and their communities? We’re still hiring. Reach out to hr_isc@medaviehs.com or visit medaviehs.com/careers for more information.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: