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Community paramedics are shining

If there is such a thing as a good match for COVID, it might be community paramedics. And not just because they both start with “C.”
Community paramedic vaccinates patient
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During the initial months of the pandemic, BC Emergency Health Services community paramedics were on the front lines, quickly accommodating to new patient needs. Community paramedics were particularly suited in their role, as their patient care is centred in their communities and often in their client’s homes.

For those experiencing difficulty accessing care, or feeling isolated by public health restrictions, community paramedics were prepared.

Community paramedic Leanne Blancher is deeply embedded in her community of Kaslo, outside of Nelson B.C.

At the start of the pandemic she spent time supporting her patients with virtual health visits, for example helping them navigate a video chat with their family physician.

Then came the COVID testing she participated in at clinics, and now, vaccinations.

This past month, Blancher spent several days vaccinating the people she knows, and a few she didn’t, in a mass community immunization effort.
“A lot of people told me, so happy to see a familiar, friendly face,” Blancher says of her experience supporting the vaccinations of more than 500 people a day at the mass local immunization clinics.

As a community paramedic, locals both recognized her in her uniform, and were reassured when they saw her.

“I’m really glad I have that connection with the community.”

In rural and remote communities across B.C., where more than 100 community paramedics practice, distance is a factor in health care. It’s why she is now reaching back into client’s homes for COVID testing. The nearest COVID testing site is an hour away and without pubic transportation the distance can be formidable.
 

By the numbers in B.C.:

  • 170 vaccination sites with community paramedics
  • 117 COVID testing sites with community paramedics
  • 16,000+ vaccinations supported by community paramedics
  • 400+ COVID tests given by community paramedics
For Dawson Creek community paramedic Jerome Lake, he says the best thing is already having the rapport with the community.

Lake, who has worked in Dawson Creek as a paramedic for 18 years, four years as a community paramedic, says there are plenty of people with COVID concerns and some with some vaccination apprehension. But, he says, this is where “community paramedics are shining.”

“It’s been fantastic,” he says of the immunization clinics he has been working at administering vaccines. Lake says it’s a chance to share data, give great care to our patients and be the recognized face when they come in to get vaccinated.

He sums it up by saying it’s been a really busy time for community paramedics, but “it’s really been fantastic.”
 
The Community Paramedicine Program began province-wide in 2016 and community paramedics are active in close to 100 communities in B.C.

 
 
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