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At home paramedicine and fire prevention proactive solutions

Advanced care paramedic Graham Bent and Chief Doug Socha demonstrate lifting a stretcher into an ambulance.


Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
A move to ‘paramedicine’ services may be a proactive solution to treating Prince Edward County’s older, sicker population.

Seniors attending a special ‘Know your Emergency Providers’ event at the new Fire and Rescue Station on McDonald Drive in Picton learned the Hastings-Quinte Paramedic Services is looking for innovative ways to handle an increased call volume.

“Prince Edward County, unfortunately, doesn’t have a very healthy population with high levels of obesity, high blood pressure and chronic secondary stroke,” said Chief Doug Socha. “In our region, the population is aging. It is an older population and it is a sicker population with some high-level disease.”

Current priorities include the implementation of health and wellness strategies including physical and mental health, as well as ongoing research initiatives around technology and alternative delivery models.

Hastings Quinte Paramedic Services Chief Doug Socha noted last year’s 22,000 calls were an increase of 6.2 per cent.

“The initiative sees paramedics visit patients in their home in a non-emergency setting to check blood pressure and blood sugar or run a heart monitor system,” said Socha. “It’s communicating with the patient and also communication back to the health team and also accessing different resources. This is what we call proactive, rather than reactive. It’s very expensive to run the paramedic service from a reactive side,” he said.

Socha explained that as the population gets older, it calls upon paramedic services more often – an increase of about five per cent each year for the past five years. Last year, he said, saw a 6.2 per cent increase in calls.

“We drive a lot. We probably put 26 million kilometres on our fleet last year – about the equivalent of driving to the moon and back two-and-a-half times,” he said.

“Of the 22,000 calls we received last year, the oldest was in the 81 to 90 year group. We have been working really hard to introduce what we call community paramedicine. This is where I am trying to drive the service to be a little bit more proactive as opposed to reactive.”

Also working with a proactive focus are members of the Prince Edward County Fire Department, who at Tuesday’s event, offered safety tips geared to seniors.

Director RTOF Sapna Goel with Mike Branscombe, the County’s Fire Prevention Officer

Planning an escape route (or ideally two routes) with your abilities in mind can and does save lives in the event of a fire, said Mike Branscombe, the County’s Fire Prevention Officer. Those who have experienced a fire say it can get very dark, very quickly, and can become disorienting.

“In the fire service, there are three lines of defence: public education, code enforcement and fire fight,” he said.

Branscombe’s presentation included information on fire safety in the home, how to identify tripping hazards, the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and of placing heating appliances close to combustibles and pointed out the hazard of long sleeves on clothing that can easily catch fire while people are cooking.

In response to a question from the visitors, he spoke to the importance of having and testing working smoking alarms and addressed their placement.

“Smoke detectors can be placed on the ceiling or on the wall, but no more than six inches down from the ceiling,” he said. “From the time the smoke alarm goes off, you often have less than two minutes to get out of your home.”

He also reminded the group that carbon monoxide detectors are now required by law in Ontario and have been since 2015.

“Every home is required to have a CO alarm if you have a heating appliance or an appliance that is fuel burning. They need to be replaced every seven years and like smoke alarms, you need to test them on a monthly basis.”

Participants were invited to tour the fire hall and EMS services area.

“This facility opened in 2016 and we blended EMS and fire together,” said Prince Edward County Fire Chief Scott Manlow. “It’s a great facility and it works fantastic having EMS in the same building. Basically we disperse together, and work evenly together.”

Fire Officer Jim Young demonstrates equipment used in the emergency dispatch room.

The tour included an up-close look at how the departments run and included a visit to the dispatch room with firefighter Jim Young explaining where the emergency calls come in, how they are answered and how the County is divided into 10 dispatch areas.

Also on show were a summer rescue boat purchased last year and a grass fire truck with a special pumping tool. Young spoke about the work the mechanics do in the mechanics bay noting that the PEC Fire Department does all their own maintenance.

Fire Officer Jim Young demonstrates a special pumping tool beside the grass fire truck.

A hit for all ages, are the big, red gleaming fire trucks – including the highlight aerial truck purchased in 2016 with its 107 aerial ladder able to reach a 10-storey structure and ability to pump 1,250 gallons of water per minute allowing the firefighters to battle a blaze, but also work ahead of it to protect neighbouring buildings.

Advanced care paramedic Graham Bent demonstrated how a stretcher is lifted into an ambulance.

“We are getting new stretchers soon that can carry 700 pounds. Instead of manual operation, it will raise up on its own at the press of a button.”

“I am proud to have this type of facility and these types of services in our community,” added Barb Proctor, Community Care President.

Presenting the ‘Know Your Emergency Service Provider’ event were Chief Doug Socha, Director RTOF Sapna Goel, RTOF executive member Margaret Werkhoven, President of Community Care for Seniors Barbara Proctor, Fire Prevention Officer Mike Branscombe, executive director Community Care for Seniors Debbie MacDonald Moynes, Co-ordinator Community Care for Seniors Laura McGugan and Fire Chief Scott Manlow.

The no-charge event organized by The Prince Edward County Community Care for Seniors Association was part of a project funded by the Retired Teachers of Ontario Foundation (RTOF).

Laura McGugan, co-ordinator with Community Care said work with the two organizations has been ongoing and is “a wonderful opportunity to team up to meet seniors in a different way, new opportunities and to be able to engage in a new way.

“The project looks at social isolation among seniors within Prince Edward County,” said McGugan. “The program was to team up with non-traditional partners with people like EMS, fire, OPP, the library, the Prince Edward Family Health Team and also the Canadian Union of Postal Works (CUPW). So if you live on a rural route, they are the ones who help us provide the rural route reassurance program making sure that you are safe.”

Prince Edward County Community Care for Seniors Executive Director Debbie MacDonald Moynes said the organization is pleased to be involved with the RTOF and thankful for it providing funding “so that we would be able to work in a different way to what we have done in the past.”

RTOF executive member Margaret Werkhoven noted the ROFT is a large voluntary organization of about 75,000 members who provide health benefits to about 100,000 people. The Foundation was set up to provide support to both for retired members and for seniors.

As she introduced Sapna Goel, Director of Strategy and Communication with the RTOF, she noted that they had something in common.

“We both went to the University of Western Ontario (now just Western), but she graduated the year that I retired,” said Werkhoven as the room erupted with laughter.

“The foundation has been going since 2011 so we are going into our seventh year now. Part of our goal is to the share how we can work together across the province with other communities and community care centres,” said Goel.

For more information on The Prince Edward County Community Care for Seniors Association, visit or call 613-476-7493.

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