Guelph-Wellington paramedics help monitor rural COVID patients to ease strain on system

·3 min read

GUELPH/WELLINGTON– Guelph/Wellington Paramedic Service is using remote patient monitoring to take the strain off the healthcare system at a critical time.

Chief Stephen Dewar said remote patient monitoring involves community paramedics examining patients who have either been discharged from hospital or flagged by a family physician.

Patients use various tools – such as weigh scales, blood pressure and oxygen saturation monitors – that are linked to a modem and results are reviewed by a community paramedic at least once a day.

Any issues based on these results can lead to necessary intervention whether that be contacting their doctor or the patient.

“Our goal is to try to prevent them from having emergencies in the first place,” Dewar said.

This program has been ongoing for a few years, but Dewar said the program has been expanded during the pandemic.

“The Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) offered us the opportunity to expand our program and to try to help people who are either mild or moderate symptoms of COVID but staying home,” Dewar said. “Just to make sure that they’re staying safe.”

GW paramedics have been assisting at Caressant Care Arthur retirement home which has been in a major COVID outbreak since mid-December.

Again, this is to keep people safe and to notify any nursing staff or others if someone begins to show worsening symptoms.

Dewar said this is a collaborative effort with staff at Caressant Care and they’re not looking to duplicate any services.

This reduces strain on hospitals and assures physicians their patients are resting at home but also allows people to know when they should seek medical help.

“That has been our findings a couple of times where people have deteriorated but they weren’t really sure at what point they should be reaching out for more help and we’re able to help them define that,” Dewar said.

This has made a large impact in Wellington County as Dewar said that’s where a majority of where remotely monitored patients are based.

“Given the rural nature, it’s a lot harder for some of the other organizations to reach those people,” Dewar said. “So remote patient monitoring works really well in Wellington County.”

A recent related pilot project has been completely based in the county.

Dewar explained the Ministry of Long-Term Care asked GW Paramedic Service to get involved in monitoring people who are on waiting lists for long-term care.

“That’s having one paramedic a day going out and visiting these people to make sure that they’re still okay and seeing what other resources they might need,” Dewar said, adding they can then follow-up with phone calls and other technology involved in remote monitoring.

He explained this takes pressure off health care providers and family as well who can take some of the burden of care off themselves.

“If you’re in there every day, if you’re a family member, you may not know if this deterioration is worthy of reporting or is this person just having a bad day,” Dewar said. “Our paramedics are able to be a little bit more objective about that.”

This pilot has been funded through to March 31 but they have applied to fund this in the future and are looking for a more permanent place to operate as it is temporarily at the Harriston Fire Hall.

Dewar is ultimately proud of how the team has stepped up during the pandemic beyond just responding to 911 calls.

“We feel like the paramedics have said ‘There’s a major emergency and we need to do everything we can,’” Dewar said. “They could just say ‘No we have enough to do’ but they’re stepping up, so I’m very proud of the team that I’m leading and the work that they’re doing.”

Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com