British Columbia is improving access to health care in rural and remote communities by enhancing the role of qualified paramedics.
BC Emergency Health Services is working closely with the Ministry of Health, regional health authorities, the Ambulance Paramedics of BC (CUPE 873), and others to successfully launch British Columbia's first Community Paramedicine Initiative.
In B.C., community paramedicine is intended primarily for rural and remote communities that are sometimes underserved and have aging populations living with chronic and complex diseases. The program objectives are to help stabilize paramedic staffing in these communities, and bridge health service delivery gaps identified in collaboration with local health care teams.
While other provinces have introduced community paramedicine in communities or health facilities, B.C. is the first to do so on a province-wide basis.
As of December 2020, community paramedics may help to augment the health authorities' COVID-19 response in the 99 communities they serve.
At the direction of the health authorities, community paramedics can provide COVID-19 testing to patients five years of age or older at COVID-19 collection centres. They are also able to assist in COVID-19 immunization clinics as a navigator or to provide unintended consequence (anaphylaxis) monitoring.
The Community Paramedicine Initiative is being implemented in a phased approach over a four-year period, with the goal of creating at least 80.00 full-time equivalent (FTE) community paramedicine positions.
The first phase began in April 2015 with the selection of nine prototype communities in the Northern, Interior, and Vancouver Island Health Authorities.
A provincial rollout began in April 2016 with the selection of an initial 76 rural and remote communities in the Northern, Interior, Island, Vancouver Coastal, and Fraser Health Authorities. Coverage extends to surrounding regions and neighbouring First Nations communities.
The final phase of implementation began January 4, 2018, with the posting of the balance of community paramedicine positions (22.84 FTEs). These positions included the introduction of rural advanced care community paramedics in larger communities, and the first full-time community paramedicine positions.
With this final phase, a total of 99 BC communities
(PDF) have been selected for this program.