Lambton paramedics volunteering for palliative care outings

(Photo by Lambton EMS)

Lambton County paramedics are launching a volunteer program to get bed-ridden, end-of-life patients out into their community.

The program will see paramedics take hospice and palliative care patients on short outings to places of their choosing.

EMS Deputy Manager Jeff Brooks said staff wanted to do something to give back.

“We have staff that have heard of other programs in other areas outside of Ontario that were doing similar things, and they felt that really this was a way to give back to the community and use the training and skills and equipment that we have to do something for a group of people that could really use that assistance to have those experiences,” said Brooks. “Destinations could include going under the Blue Water Bridge for fries, it could be going to see your grandchild play a hockey game or a baseball game, it could be going home for an hour or two to spend some time with your family or going back to visit the family farm.”

The program is being supported by SEIU Healthcare, the union that represents the paramedics, St. Joseph’s Hospice, and the County of Lambton, which donated an ambulance to facilitate these outings.

Hospice Medical Director Dr. James Maddison said the program speaks to the essence of palliative care through giving people meaning in their final days.

“It’s kind of a final gift for people who are end-of-life and who are too weak to get out into a car, and their family can’t take them into a car, so they need a lot of care,” said Dr. Maddison. “It’s like the same thing with the Make-A-Wish Foundation where kids will go to Disney Land — our patients aren’t going to Disney Land, but on our smaller scale, it’s the same as that. It’s granting a final wish for people, and it’s better than any shot of morphine, I can tell you that. It’s a really positive thing, and I’m really proud of our EMS workers who brought this up.”

Dr. Maddison said Sarnia-Lambton is one of the first areas in the province where palliative care doctors have worked directly with EMS.

Brooks, who said the program is set to launch in the near future, believes it will make a big impact.

“The paramedics are uniquely poised to do this in that we have equipment and training to safely move people as well as monitor them and take care of them medically on these outings,” said Brooks. “We have about 60 paramedics that have already put their name in to volunteer for this program, and we look forward to helping people in the community.”