As part of last week’s meeting of the city’s Health and Safety Committee, Merrill Fire Chief Dave Savone received the green light to move forward with a Community Care Paramedic pilot program.
As Savone explains, the program has been utilized by EMS services and fire departments nationwide and around the state for quite some time; including Wausau and Stevens Point.
The program will involve paramedics providing services outside traditional emergency response and transport roles, while incorporating proactive measures, and making the most efficient use of paramedics in hospital emergency departments
A common role of EMS personnel is to lessen impact of an injury or medical emergency.
The Community Care Paramedic Program would expand those roles to include prevention of injuries and medical issues. Once the program is in place, MFD paramedics will begin performing visits to the residences of recently discharged emergency department patients. Visits will have a general focus on providing for a patient’s basic health care needs, as well as post discharge follow up care, integration with local public health agencies and providing education, health and safety promotion programs.
While in its pilot stage, the program will work closely with Good Samaritan Health Center (GSHC) in focusing on recently discharged patients who are suffering from three specific medical conditions of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulminary Disease), Congestive Heart Failure and Pneumonia.
According to Savone, last year GSHC discharged 370 patients alone; suffering from the ailments of which the program will focus.
Administering the program will use existing medical protocols tailed to the program. Activities paramedics will perform include but are not limited to; patient assessments; to include vital sign checks, follow up on prescription medications for accuracy and checking refill schedules as well as routine fire safety assessments of a patient’s living area.
The program will be administered in direct coordination with GSHC emergency physicians. Care provided will be at the discretion of ED physicians and within a paramedic’s scope of practice.
All services will be provided free of charge to the patient.
In terms of funding and cost, Savone indicates the department will continue to work with GSHC Emergency Medical Director and project medical director Dr. Robyn Schertz, to secure grant funding for the program from sources including the Good Samaritan Health Center Foundation and the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy.
“Now that we have been authorized to move forward with a pilot program, we can now move forward with meeting grant application periods,” Savone said.
“Currently, in the state of Wisconsin there is no reimbursement avenue for community care programs such as these, unlike other states who do provide reimbursement such as Minnesota. In working with Dr.Schertz at Good Samaritan Health Center, we determined Good Samaritan would be charged $100 per each Community Care Paramedic visit.”
“The funding would be derived from any grant funding or donations the program receives. Our intentions would be to have the initial visit within two days of the patient being discharged and a follow-up visit 7 days later,” he explains.
Savone adds that all MFD members would be trained and knowledgeable in community care practices and use department utility vehicles such as one pictured below; while performing program visits.
Emergency calls would remain top priority. If MFD members are on a community care visit and an emergency call comes in, they will promptly respond as they would normally. Patients would be advised of such during the visit.
“This is a new concept” he said.
“This program will allow us to use available EMS resources to address an unfulfilled health care service in the community. It is our hope, by providing this service; citizens in our community can be afforded opportunities to live healthier lives. This program will have no budgetary impact to the Merrill Fire Department or to the City of Merrill. If grant writing is unsuccessful, the pilot program will not move forward.”