By Linda Dillman
Hamilton Township residents needing follow-up care after a trip to the emergency room could find assistance as close as the township fire department as part of a “Community Paramedicine” program.
Hamilton Township Fire Department Capt. Wade Edwards, the township’s designated community paramedic, said the program is part of an evolving model of community-based health care. Paramedics can function outside their customary emergency duties in ways that enhance access to primary care for medically under served populations and/or facilitate more appropriate use of emergency care resources.
There is no cost to the patient.
“Perhaps the best demonstrated benefit of CP programs has been in getting people who have accessed the EMS system, but do not have a medical emergency condition, to more appropriate destinations than a hospital emergency department,” said Edwards. “Some CP programs provide short-term follow-up home visits for patients who have just been discharged from a hospital or emergency department until other providers are able to make a home visit or other follow-up care. Such follow-up care may help prevent emergency department or hospital re-admissions.”
As a community paramedic, Edwards contacts physicians, family, social services and programs such as Meals-on-Wheels for follow-up care. In working with sensitive patient information, Edwards said the department is careful about HIPPA concerns and works closely with OhioHealth on the issue.
The township program started in 2017 with 80 patients. The next year, the number grew to 104. In 2019, 115 patients accessed the CP program and as of Sept. 30, 88 patients have been seen.
“One might think it is just a visit to say how you are, but most of the time, it takes days to work out the logistics to take care of the patients’ needs,” said Edwards, who visits patients in a red 2012 Ford Expedition donated to the department from the village of Obetz. “If it were easy, the request would not exist. In the future, we will likely see an increase in demands due to the flu season, COVID-19, and the loss of health care coverage.”
According to Edwards, it would not be too far out of the question to see telemedicine within the community paramedic field in the future.
Hamilton Township Trustee Chris Hann said the township is supportive of the community paramedicine program.
“It is the right thing to do and the board feels strongly about the humanitarian efforts,” Hann said.
Seven other departments have some variation of the program, although they all have subtle differences. The township fire department has a comprehensive program that includes both medical and social components.
Obetz Mayor Angela Kirk called the program a great addition for the community. She said it provides vital services for residents who may need medical attention that does not require a hospital visit and provides care for residents that may otherwise go without basic medical attention.
“We are proud of the partnership we have with Hamilton Township Fire Department,” said Kirk. “Captain Edwards has always gone above and beyond for our community, the township as well as the school district.”
According to Edwards, community paramedicine is a growing field, one that can have a drastic improvement in the quality of patients’ lives such as reducing emergency visits and turning them into primary care visits. The program also links people with critical needs such as oxygen and medications.
Some patients require one or two home visits, others can require the paramedic to go with the patient to their primary care appointments.
“Unfortunately, funding this program continues to be an issue,” said Edwards. “Through some generous donations and some creative work, we have demonstrated that this is a beneficial program. Growing it further will require additional funding due to the additional manpower needed.”
For information about the program, call the fire department non-emergency number at 614-491-1050.