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Journal Pioneer - 2021-07-21

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PCH incorporates advanced care paramedics in its ER

PRINCE COUNTY

KRISTIN GARDINER JOURNAL PIONEER kristin.gardiner @saltwire.com @KristinGardiner

SUMMERSIDE — Paramedic Association of P.E.I. president Jason O’Meara is thrilled that the Prince County Hospital has introduced advanced care paramedics into its emergency department. “It’s very encouraging on our part, as a professional advocacy body for paramedics in P.E.I. to see a growth within our profession,” said O’Meara. “It’s a positive step for paramedics in this province, for sure.” Although the two paramedics incorporated at the PCH have years of experience in the field, the positions they’re filling have just recently been created. Traditionally, O’Meara said, paramedics have worked strictly in pre-hospital care, such as in ambulances. Lately, though, he’s seen an expansion in the roles and responsibilities of paramedics; more and more of them, he said, have begun working within the health-care system itself. Having advanced care paramedics in official roles at an emergency department, he said, is part of that shift. “It wasn’t all that long ago that working on the ambulance in P.E.I. meant that if you were going to retire, you were going to retire in the ambulance setting alone,” said O’Meara. “It is very encouraging to know that the paramedics do have that flexibility, now, to choose a setting that’s a little bit different than the one they’re currently working in.” While advanced care paramedics working in the hospital is new for the PCH, O’Meara said the concept isn’t unique. Nova Scotia, for example, has had advanced care paramedics working in the emergency department at the Dartmouth General Hospital and the QEII for years. Paramedics have also been introduced at night in the collaborative emergency centre at Alberton’s Western Hospital. Having them at the PCH, though, marks the first time paramedics have been utilized at a fully functional emergency department in P.E.I. “Paramedics and nurses, as well as other health professions, have been working side by side for many years, in a lot of places across the country,” said O’Meara. SaltWire Network reached out to Health P.E.I., but it declined an interview at this time. In an email sent July 5, Everton McLean, senior communications officer with Health P.E.I., said the paramedics are being introduced to the ER as a contingency if no nurses are available. “To date, that hasn’t happened, but there are still shifts this summer that need to be filled,” McLean stated. “Our priority and preference is to fill these shifts with nurses.” O’Meara, personally, is excited that paramedics working in the province are starting to have more options for their work environments. “I’m ecstatic to see that paramedics are being given these opportunities,” said O’Meara. “As more opportunities present themselves, we can see paramedics deciding to remain in the profession longer because they have that professional versatility.” In O’Meara’s opinion, having paramedics working in the PCH’s emergency department means greater flexibility and expanded capacity in the hospital. The increased number of health-care workers, too, means better care provided to patients. “In no way is it meant to be a substitution, or taking a spot from anybody else. We’re looking at it as a benefit and a bonus,” said O’Meara. “Now, there’s an additional level of training and clinician expertise that will be added to the already excellent care that’s being provided.”

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