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Community paramedic clinics

Gloria* was dropped off at the affordable housing building on Truscott Drive with little more than a mattress for her floor. She had high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea and was falling several times a day.

Fast forward three months: Gloria has been connected to a family doctor and TransHelp, and someone from Peel Senior Link visits her every day. Her blood pressure and sugar levels are under control, and she's finding it easier to stay on her feet.

Here's their story

Gloria is just one of many seniors Peel paramedics have helped since introducing clinics at three affordable housing buildings last spring, as part of a community paramedic pilot program. The clinics enable paramedics to meet with residents each week, providing basic check-ups while empowering patients to take charge of their own health. They also connect patients to other resources to expand the circle of care.

"The idea is to identify issues and manage them before they become a problem so there's no need to dial 911 down the road," explains Community Paramedic Peggy D'Eath.

By all accounts, the clinics are working.

"We've seen people whose blood pressure is through the roof and after spending a couple weeks with us, their numbers improve and they tell us they feel better," says Peggy.

Paramedic Kristen Albrecht adds: "Three women have lost 20 pounds by following our nutritional advice, and recently, a family doctor adjusted a patient's medication based on our data, which improved the patient's blood pressure."

The list of positive examples goes on and on – and they extend far beyond physical health.

The clinics give people a reason to leave their rooms, and when they do, they end up chatting with their neighbours and having a good time.

Paramedic Richard Burton agrees: "We're their weekly entertainment." Indeed, residents look forward to seeing the paramedics, often lining up well before the clinics open. Fortunately, the feeling is mutual.

"Every week they invite us into their lives. They share their triumphs and their tragedies," says Peggy. "It's like we've gained 160 new grandparents and it's an honour to be welcomed into their family.”

The Region of Peel currently operates three community paramedic clinics out of Peel Living buildings at South Common Court, Hillside Place and Millbrook Place. The clinics are part of a medical research project led by McMaster University.

* Name changed for anonymity.