The Saskatchewan Health Authority is continuing to expand paramedic patient practices when it comes to responding to 911 calls.  

On Jan. 14 the SHA launched its Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Treatment and Referral pilot project in Saskatoon. The goal of the project is to make sure patients receive adequate and timely care while relieving the pressures of emergency rooms.  

The pilot project will be exclusively in Saskatoon over the next six to 12 months with the participation of Medavie Health Services West.  

Kyle Sereda, Medavie Health Services Wests’ Chief General Manager – Moose Jaw, explains that this project allows the paramedics to assess the patient and determine their next course of care.  

“This program aims to utilize the paramedics that are with the patients and through assessments to determine whether or not they need to go to the hospital or if there is an alternate health resource that could be utilized like clinics, home care services, and public health,” says Sereda.  

Paramedics will also have the ability to connect with a Virtual Triage Physician to assist with their assessment.  

“What that does is we believe that it better serves the patient in what they’re seeking out for medical attention or advice. Certainly, if they need transportation that is always available and will not change. It also helps divert some of the stresses in the emergency room where we bring patients in, that are either treated and released very quickly or referred to other health services that could have avoided transport to the hospital,” adds Sereda. 

Sereda notes this assistance is patient-driven and will have to provide consent to the virtual treatment and in some cases be involved in the assessment.  

The SHA has identified six initial protocols that will be included as part of the pilot, including hypoglycemia, heat illness, mild to moderate allergic reactions with dissipating symptoms, falls, minor lacerations or abrasions without active bleeding as well as influenza-like illness. 

The program is still in the early stages, as it only has been operational for two weeks, but the response has been good from paramedics, as they now have more involvement.  

Before, access to a virtual physician wasn’t an option or the ability to refer patients to other resources, other than the emergency room.  

“The paramedics have a bit more involvement in what resources could be applied to that specific situation. We’re often standing in front or sitting next to them and trying to answer their questions. It was difficult before because we didn’t have access to those resources like a physician. Adding that component to it will help paramedics and patients get the services that they need.” 

Sereda explains that a lot of their low-acuity calls are from patients who are looking where to find the appropriate resources for what they're going through. This program now bridges that gap of understanding. 

Pending project outcomes, the goal is to expand the pilot through a phased approach to Regina and additional ambulance services. Sereda says that he hopes the program will be a success and eventually could be applied to the Moose Jaw area.  

He concluded by saying, this is a project that has been in the works for a few years and with increasing pressures brought forward by the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation, and other factors, he is happy to see it finally come to the surface.