Richmond, B.C. - The announcement this week that 73 rural and remote B.C. communities have been targeted for the provincial community paramedicine program is a significant development that will improve access to primary health-care services, say the Ambulance Paramedics of BC (CUPE 873).

Community paramedicine, a program offering residents enhanced health services from ambulance paramedics, builds on the skills and background of paramedics by empowering them to reach people who live in rural and remote communities.

“Community paramedicine brings improved patient care to these areas, and paramedics are well-suited to take on this important role in health-care provision,” says CUPE 873 President Bronwyn Barter.

“With expanded access to care into places like Alexis Creek, Anahim Lake, Bella Bella and Bella Coola, many more patients will get the care they need closer to home, and more paramedics will be able to provide it.”

Under the expanded program, announced by Health Minister Terry Lake on Wednesday, services provided may include blood pressure checks, assistance with diabetic care, help to identify fall hazards, medication assessment, post-injury or illness evaluation, and assistance with respiratory conditions. Community paramedicine means that paramedics can provide basic health-care services, within their scope of practice, in partnership with local health-care providers.

Community paramedicine was launched last year in nine prototype B.C. communities. The initiative is now expanding provincewide, and will be in place in 31 communities in the Interior, 18 communities in northern B.C., 19 communities on Vancouver Island, and five communities in the Vancouver coastal area this year.

At least 80 new full-time equivalent positions will support the implementation of community paramedicine as well as augment emergency response capabilities. Community paramedics are expected to be delivering community health services in northern B.C. this fall, in the Interior in early 2017, on Vancouver Island and the Vancouver coastal area in the spring of 2017.

BC Emergency Health Services has been co-ordinating the implementation of community paramedicine in B.C. with the Ministry of Health, regional health authorities, CUPE 873, the First Nations Health Authority and others.