N.B. paramedics to team up with nurses to make palliative care house calls

MONCTON — Paramedics across New Brunswick will soon be teaming up with nurses to provide joint palliative care to patients in the province.

“What we’re doing is adding paramedics into that circle of care, so that paramedics will now be linked with the extramural program provider who knows that patient best, and develop a care plan for that symptom crisis to address it in the best way possible,” said Susan Dugas of Ambulance New Brunswick.

Some say the collaboration would bolster support for the limited number of nurses.

“So, if a paramedic can fill in, that would be a good thing,” said Sackville resident Sharon Hicks.

But some are skeptical as to how this will work.

“Paramedics, their primary purpose is lifesaving, answering emergency calls,” Hicks said. “If they’re looking after a palliative patient and an emergency call comes in, what’s their priority?”

Cecile Cassista, the director of the Coalition for Seniors Rights, is also concerned.

“Their skillsets are much, much different,” Cassista said. “So, we’re tasking our paramedics greater than what they’re supposed to be.”

Paramedics with Ambulance New Brunswick say they’re already responding to around 930 palliative calls every year. The palliative care training they’ve now undergone is ultimately going to be more time efficient and keep patients in their home, if possible.

“Our emergency departments are extremely busy,” Dugas said. “We have ambulances on off-load delay, so they’re backed up. We don’t want our palliative patients waiting for a bed in an emergency department if they can be cared for at home.”

Those who work closely with seniors say resources need to be prioritized differently.

“What they need to be doing is putting more resources in our extramural program and our homecare,” Cassista said.

While many have questions as to how the emergency versus long-term care providers will work hand in hand, they all can agree they’d like to see palliative care patients treated in the comfort of their own homes.

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