Halifax pilot project sees fewer seniors brought to ER

A national report on heath-care wait times is highlighting a success story in the Halifax area which has seen a reduced number of elderly people brought to emergency rooms.

In February of 2011, Nova Scotia's Emergency Health Services (EHS) assigned one paramedic position to respond to calls from the 16 long-term care facilities in the Halifax area.

The idea is not to rush them to the emergency room, but rather to treat them on site.

Andrew Travers, the provincial medical director for EHS, says 1,000 calls came in during the first year.

"But in about 70 per cent of cases it's resulted in no transport to the emergency department so really what that saves is an incredible amount of time for the patient. They're able to be treated and release in the comfort of the their own home in the long-term care facility and not transported," Travers said.

The paramedic travels alone, but gets help from an online emergency physician, the nurse at the nursing home as well as an on-call family physician.

Before the project began, the paramedics were trained.

"So they received a lot of work on how to approach the elderly, how to assist frailty. Basically a lot of the complexities of the elderly population," said Travers.

The project was praised in Thursday's report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

It's currently being evaluated to see if it can be rolled out provincewide.

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