The provincial government is expanding the amount of power paramedics have when responding to an emergency.

At a meeting of Ontario municipalities Wednesday, the Minister of Health said more municipalities will be following the 9-1-1 model of care, which allows patients to be transferred to other locations instead of the hospital

“The 911 models of care initiative builds on the effective community Para medicine programs that already deliver a range of services in communities across the province to help improve access to care and help people with chronic conditions live independently at home with support,” said Sylvia Jones, Ontario’s Minister of Health.

The 911 models of care gives paramedics more options when responding to a call, to avoid bogging down hospital wait rooms.

“Initial results of the 40 projects show patients are accessing care 17 times quicker and 94 per cent didn't go to the ER in the days following,” Jones said.

Guelph Wellington Paramedic Services was one of the locations chosen for the pilot program in 2020.

Through the model, the services have started assessing palliative care patients on scene, while establishing baseline vital signs and confirming patient consent before assisting in transporting patients directly to a hospice instead of to the hospital.

“It’s a great program. It does reduce the strain on the emergency department somewhat, and it provides better care to the people that are involved,” Stephen Dewar, chief of the Guelph Wellington Paramedic Services said. “Believe it or not, in the past, we would need to take them to emergency have a doctor okay the transfer, and then transfer them to Hospice. That’s not in the best interest of the patient and uses valuable hospital time.”

The model also allows Guelph Paramedic Services to provide home care to palliative patients and avoid bringing them to a hospital.

“We’ve gotten some definite positive feedback, expressions of appreciation,” Dewar said.

The model also gives the service the option to take mental health and addiction patients directly to community-based care settings instead of an emergency room.

Dewar said it took some extra training, but all his staff were eager to learn.

According to Dewar, in some health care centres, the program has allowed paramedics to transfer patients with less severe injuries to urgent care centres instead of hospitals. He hopes to be able to offer that service in Guelph-Wellington when the program expands.

The model has not been introduced in Waterloo Region, but a local hospital is looking forward to the possibility of it coming in.

“As hospitals across Ontario face critical staffing shortages, we support enabling all members of our health care system to work at their full scope of practice to provide high-quality patient care,” Bonnie Camm, executive vice-president of clinical services at Grand River Hospital said in an email.