DOBSON — Surry County Emergency Services is awaiting word of a possible grant to expand a fledgling concept called community paramedicine.
It is a growing idea that is starting to show up in several counties across the state, according to John Shelton, emergency services director.
Patients with chronic medical conditions — such as diabetes, congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — can require frequent medical care. Without regular help to maintain health, these folks can be calling 911 with emergencies.
This can put the EMS in a bind if other calls are running at the same time. It also can lead to crowding in the ER as that might be the only medical option at that time of day.
What if a critical-care paramedic were to visit these people periodically and administer care? The patients would be less likely to need emergency transport and ER care.
With the program still young for Surry County, Shelton said the folks who are chosen for the program right now are patients who have just been seen at Northern Hospital of Surry County.
Because of how medical insurance and obligations work, the hospital can’t be reimbursed for care given if a patient returns within 48 hours, according to Shelton.
So, the EMS has dedicated one person per shift to be a community paramedic, making visits to these recently released patients.
The EMS is partnering with Northern Hospital on this along with other agencies that might need to be involved to help the patient, said Shelton. This could include mental health professionals, hospice agencies, Social Services and the Surry Health and Nutrition Center.
“Our goals and objectives for the patients begin with an in-house assessment and evaluation with the hospital ACO care coordinator,” said Shelton. Once the EMS receives a patient’s file from the hospital, “a six- to eight-week period of followup treatment will be designed for the patient.”
Sometimes law enforcement is necessary in the case of someone with mental health issues or when opioids and controlled substances are involved.
The county already has quick-response units in Shoals and Beulah that serve those areas far from the EMS headquarters off U.S. 601 behind Arby’s and KFC. It is a shorter distance for a crew member there to run out to nearby homes and check on these chronic conditions.
As Westfield also is a long way off from the city, residents there have been pushing for a quick-response unit.
An endowment grant could make that Westfield location a reality.
“The hospital has agreed to seek Duke Endowment Grant funding to support personnel and equipment within EMS,” Shelton informed the county Board of Commissioners.
“They have applied for $377,000 to provide four EMS personnel — and a response vehicle — equipped to assist in managing the program.”
Matt Linville, director of the Northern Hospital Foundation, sent in the grant proposal and would be in charge of administering the grant if received, Shelton explained.
“They have advised us it will take approximately six months to hear from the results,” Shelton said. That clock started in January, so the county might not hear back until after the board has finalized the 2018-19 fiscal year budget.
Shelton said Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital also has been contacted about the paramedicine program. He said the Elkin hospital is interested in the idea, but wants to see how it works out with Northern Hospital first before committing to any plan.
“So far we’re seeing the results are positive,” said Shelton.
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.