Saskatchewan’s major hospital emergency rooms have been seeing increasing numbers of patients, and concern for providing the best emergency care has always been paramount. Now the Saskatchewan Health Authority has launched a pilot project designed to provide quality care outside of crowded ERs. The Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Treatment and Referral Pilot Project, currently under way in Saskatchewan, will expand the diagnostic and treatment duties for paramedics, in consultation with triage physicians.

The idea is for a virtual physician to provide input in cases where a patient may not need to be transported to hospital. In such cases, patients could receive on site treatment or be released to other health care providers such as clinics or family physician offices. The pilot will address only adult patients. 

“Paramedics have the front-line assessment skills through education and experience to safely treat specific urgent conditions in a patient’s home setting,” Mental Health and Addictions, Seniors, and Rural and Remote Health Minister Everett Hindley said. “By further empowering our frontline health-care workers with innovative and flexible options, we are able to better address patient needs and alleviate emergency room pressures.”

The SHA has identified six initial protocols that will be included as part of the pilot, including: hypoglycemia, heat illness, mild to moderate allergic reactions with dissipating symptoms, falls, minor lacerations or abrasions without active bleeding as well as influenza-like illness.

“We are looking forward to the positive impact this new process will have on patient care,” SHA Executive Director of Provincial Services-Community Care Rod MacKenzie said. “This is a great opportunity to better address patient needs while reducing delays for EMS and our hospitals.”

Over the next year, Saskatoon will remain the site of the pilot with participants Medavie Health Services West. Depending on the success of the pilot, the project should see phased in expansion in Regina, incorporating other ambulance providers.