Paramedics treat palliative patients at home

Thousands of British Columbia paramedics have now been trained in a new care model that aims to keep palliative patients out of hospital as long as possible.

“We were transporting patients to hospital, often when they were towards end of life, and the environment wasn’t appropriate for the (physical state) they were in,” said Leon Baranowski, director of clinical and professional practice with BC Emergency Health Services.

That began to change three years ago as BC EHS developed the ASTaR initiative, which stands for assess, see, treat and refer, and which gives paramedics the tools to treat palliative patients at home in many cases.

It’s a major shift for a system when taking someone who called 911 to hospital was often the only choice for paramedics.

The new model was initially introduced in five communities, Prince George, Nanaimo, Kamloops, the North Shore and Abbotsford. It has now been expanded provincewide.

“It was a wholesale change to the system. We started at the way the 911 call enters, our dispatch centres with our emergency medical call-takers, they get flagged for awareness and triage by our paramedic specialists, then we decide which vehicles to dispatch to the call,” Baranowski said.

Advocates and caregivers for people at the end of life have welcomed the option to avoid a disruptive, stressful and potentially painful transport to an emergency room.

“They made things a lot better,” said Gennifer Ryan, whose husband Jim recently passed away from lung cancer.

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