New community paramedic program comes to Eagle County
September 20, 2010
Health is a most peculiar thing. Everyone understands something about it, but no one fully understands it. Health is often forgotten and ignored until it is lost, then it becomes our most important possession. Health is one of our greatest investments, and as challenging as saving for a rainy day. I like to think of our health as starting with eating well, sleeping well and exercising well. Mark Twain put it another way: “The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.”
Despite always being at the tip of our tongues and on the news every night, we still have a long way to go to solve the health care crisis ahead of us. Our population ages every day and the latest test or antibiotic costs more than ever. The challenges are enormous, but a remarkable step toward solving the problem may have found its start in Eagle. It is called The Community Paramedic Program, and you might have a chance to become involved.
Put the right people in the right place at the right time and the result is enhanced medical care at lower costs. This program was spearheaded by our very own Chris Montera, chief of the Western Eagle County Ambulance District, and Anne Robinson from the Eagle County Health Department. It has been supported by The Eagle County Health Department, Vail Valley Medical Center, Valley View Hospital, Colorado Mountain College and many local physicians. The most important people involved however are you, the patients of Eagle County.
In order to be called a “community paramedic” a student has to have completed a rigorous curriculum established by an international committee involving 100 hours of class work as well as an additional 40 hours of clinical rotations in both hospital and outpatient settings.
Chris Berdoulay and Kevin Creek are the first two local paramedics to have completed the program. They are starting their work as community paramedics as you are reading this. The strength of the program is that it gives the best paramedics additional education so they can provide medical care where patients often need it most, in your home in our community. They will be working within their current scope of practice under the direction of your primary care physician to provide medical care that might otherwise be difficult to access, or expensive to receive. That might include evaluating an incision after surgery, checking your blood pressure, helping you stay on top of complicated medical instructions, diets, and medications, evaluating your possible oxygen needs as well as providing education and home safety checks.
Their roles and responsibilities will grow as more needs arise. Currently this program has benefited from generous grant support with the goal that it will become self supporting as medical cost savings are seen through improved health, fewer emergency room visits and decreased hospital readmissions. If you are fortunate to receive a call from one of our community paramedics, please welcome them into your home and thank your physician for sending them! For more information, contact WECAD or your primary care physician.
Dr. Drew Werner is the vice chief of staff at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs and the Eagle County Health Officer. He lives in Eagle with his family. E-mail comments about this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.