The District of Muskoka will partner with local non-profit Muskoka Seniors to receive $350,000 of provincial funding.
The one-time funding will be used to purchase equipment and bring on two more full-time community paramedics for the district’s Community Paramedicine Program. The program supports people living at home who need non-emergency medical help, according to Michelle Russell, Muskoka’s Manager of Strategies and Initiatives.
“The goal of [the program] is to keep people in their homes longer by assisting them to keep healthy, connecting them with services that were previously unknown to them,” says Russell. “This can include home visits, phone visits, remote care monitoring, wellness checks, physical assessments of their vital signs, the list goes on. Community paramedics are so essential to the district, and they take the pressure off our hospitals and other emergency services.”
Russell says the funding would mainly go towards remote care monitoring, which the program does not currently offer. It allows paramedics to visit patients virtually to check their health.
Although the funding was approved by the Ontario government in September, the district can only receive the money through a partner organization that has a specific type of agreement with the province. Funding for the program used to flow through The Pines Long Term Care Home, but after the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care separated in 2019, the district was required to find a different partner organization.
Muskoka Seniors was chosen as it has an existing agreement to receive funding from the province, as well as the capacity and experience to handle the extra funds, according to Russell, although those weren’t the only factors.
“Muskoka Seniors also supports a very similar demographic to the Community Paramedicine Program,” says Russell. “Although [it] supports Muskokans of all ages, there is a significant seniors demographic to the program, and we thought that alignment and common goal made this partnership even stronger.”
Jenn Pfrimmer, Executive Director of Muskoka Seniors, says it’ll be very valuable to the residents served by the organization.
“A lot of things right now are virtual, and a lot of our older senior population are not as connected virtually. When things and tools and systems are available, but they’re all through the internet, that can be a real challenge when you’re trying to figure out the type of help you may need and what is available in your area,” says Pfrimmer. “So having systems like the Community Paramedicine Program is great, because these individuals are educated and trained on what is available within the community.”
The district’s Health Services Committee approved the partnership at a meeting Thursday, and Russell says the funds should clear sometime in November, after District Council ratifies the decision. She says she’s hopeful the funding will be renewed after it expires in March.