Ottawa’s paramedics supporting long-term care centres

OTTAWA – Even in a world where the underlying message is to just stay home, the Ottawa Paramedic Service (OPS) is still on the job.

In addition to answering 911 calls and supporting the City’s COVID-19 assessment centres, Ottawa’s paramedics have been working in long-term care centres to help contain the pandemic outbreak.

Earlier this month, 24 specially trained members of the OPS joined an initiative to test all residents and employees, a total of approximately 15,000 people, for COVID-19 in 60 long-term care centres. This initiative was completed in collaboration with multiple partners including the Champlain Health Region Incident Command and Ottawa Public Health.

Through this initiative, community paramedics conducted 1,700 swab tests, plus an additional 300 through its Special Population Response Team (SPRT) which began April 1.

The SPRT is a partnership with The Ottawa Hospital and the Regional Paramedic Program of Eastern Ontario to reduce the demands placed on local hospitals. Through this initiative, long-term care facilities have a direct phone number they can call to have a community paramedic come provide bedside assessments and care to the patient in their residence.

Whenever possible and appropriate, patients are treated in their residence and not transferred to hospital. This ensures the patient’s safety by reducing their exposure to community-acquired illnesses and it leaves hospital beds available for those who have no other choice.

Ottawa community paramedics are able to perform some diagnostics in the patient’s residence that would normally require an assessment at the hospital. They have direct contact with a doctor they can call immediately to assist remotely with any questions or concerns.

Since this initiative began on April 1, Ottawa community paramedics have seen 770 patients to help manage symptoms which include:

  • New or worsening cough
  • Fever
  • Difficulties breathing
  • And to provide services, such as:
  • IV starts and restarts
  • IV rehydration
  • Point-of-Care testing
  • Facilitating virtual assessments with emergency physicians

In addition to COVID-19, community paramedics can swab for influenza and respiratory syncytial virus with a physician requisition.

This initiative is a natural extension of the community paramedic program which already provides for, among other services:

  • in-house assessment and treatment of flu-like symptoms
  • intensive care coordination in partnership with community stakeholders
  • Wellness Checks that include point-of-care testing, vital sign assessments and advanced care planning

As the program evolves, it will be expanded to include other conditions and special populations throughout Ottawa.