WASHINGTON, N.C. Can we cut emergency room visits in half? Unnecessary visits not only drive up the cost of healthcare, but also take services, staff and space away from the people in greater need. A new community paramedicine program at Beaufort County Community College hopes to change that, and outside agencies are chipping in to make it a reality. Jonathan Haven's Trust awarded $7000 to BCCC, and Vidant Hospital Foundation awarded a grant of $5000 to cover the cost of equipment. This is on top of $25000 GlaxoSmithKline contributed to hire an instructor and start the program.
Patients come to hospitals regularly to refill prescriptions or call 9-1-1 for minor problems. They frequently come in for medical issues that could easily have been prevented had the problem been caught days before. Vidant Beaufort Hospital has identified 419 patients with six or more emergency department visits. Even reducing this number by 20 patients will result in a decrease of over 120 ED admissions.
The community paramedic training program will train current paramedics to check on patients who hospitals have recently discharged or patients who are frequent 9-1-1 callers. In between making emergency calls, paramedics can visit patients of concern. They can conduct home assessments, check on the nutrition of a patient and look for sanitation issues.
Larry Gales, EMS programs coordinator at BCCC, said the prevention aspect is particularly important. "Right now, we handle situations where patients should have called three days ago. By then, an infection or an illness has gotten much more damaging or complex."
Grant funding allowed the college to purchase a mannequin connected to heart and lung sound education systems.
In order to train paramedics in these additional duties, the program purchased a ventriliphone lung and heart education system with the help of the Vidant Hospital Foundation and a training mannequin with the help of the Jonathan Haven's Trust. The mannequin is transportable, so it can be loaded in the back of the college's training ambulance.
"BCCC's Community Paramedic program ties in perfectly with the focus of our Community Benefit Grant program,"
said Jennifer Lewis community health improvement coordinator for Vidant Beaufort Hospital. Lewis leads the Community Benefit Grants review committee.
- "In order to receive grant funding, the organization applying must present a program that clearly targets one of the priorities identified in our county's Community Health Needs Assessment. Access to care and chronic disease management are among those priorities. We believe BCCC's efforts in training community paramedics will positively impact the health and well-being of the community we both serve. We are excited to support this program and look forward to its great success."
The college ran a pilot class with six students to perfect the curriculum. The first open enrollment class will begin in February 2019
- Contact: Attila Nemecz