By Mary O’KEEFE
The Glendale Fire Dept. is participating in California’s Community Paramedic Pilot Project. The project is a new model for community-based health care in which paramedics function outside their customary emergency response and transport roles in ways that will help the underserved population. The project is a partnership between California Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA) and the California Health Care Foundation.
GFD is participating in two of the pilot projects that focus on alternative transportation and congestive heart failure. The entire GFD personnel are being trained in the alternative transportation pilot program.
“These are for lower critical patients,” said GFD Fire Chief Harold Scoggins.
If a person has a sprained ankle, for example, they could be taken to an urgent care facility as opposed to an emergency room, Scoggins explained.
“For the community member, this could lower medical costs and they would be seen faster, ” he said.
It would also free up emergency rooms for more severe cases.
GFD has partnered with the urgent care facilities at Glendale Adventist and Glendale Memorial hospitals. The decision to go to an urgent care facility will be made with the approval of the patient who must be “alert and oriented times 4,” Scoggins said. This means they must know their name, where they are, day and time and are aware of what is happening.
Three members of GFD personnel volunteered to be trained as community paramedics. Captain Tucker and firefighters Mejia and Donnelly have completed the first phase of the training, which included 96 hours of specialized training that builds upon the skill sets of experienced paramedics in order for them to implement an integrated approach to health care delivery, according to a GFD statement.
The paramedics trained with cardiologists and will become part of a type of follow-up program for those who have been hospitalized with congestive heart failure conditions.
“Our community paramedics will meet [the patient] while [he or she] is still in the hospital,” Scoggins said.
But the involvement of community paramedics doesn’t end in the hospital, should the patient agree to participate in the program.
“Our community paramedics will greet [patients at their home] 48 hours after they are released from the hospital,” he said. “The [paramedics] will assess vital signs and make certain the [person] is taking their medication and to see if they are getting to the doctors’ appointments.”
Sometimes when a person returns home from the hospital and begins to feel better, they miss a doctor’s appointment or perhaps take less medication than prescribed. There are other reasons that people do not go to their doctor or follow their doctor’s recommendations, including financial reasons.
Community paramedics will follow up after the initial visit if necessary. This, Scoggins hopes, will help avoid subsequent trips to the emergency room, which will be financially beneficial for the patient while freeing up emergency rooms.
“Here in Glendale, heart-related emergency response is our number one call, ” he added.
The community paramedics would be in touch with the cardiologists, sharing information.
Glendale is one of three Southern California fire departments participating in the alternative transportation project.
“Santa Monica and Pasadena are also participating,” Scoggins said.
The three agencies have been working closely for the last two years. They are also working with UCLA researchers who will be monitoring the data collected by local fire agencies.
Glendale is the only fire department in Southern California that is participating in the community paramedic congestive heart failure project.
Several other states have participated in the program including North Carolina, Colorado, Minnesota, Maine and Texas. According to the California Emergency Medical Services Authority, in Colorado a single county program saved $1,250 per visit in health care costs for each of its 29 patients in the first year.