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Community Paramedics eliminate barriers for Winnipeg residents in need of health care

EPIC program has seen positive results in the 10 years since launching

May 25, 2020

Two paramedics standing next to an ambulance

Access to primary medical care is critical for personal safety. The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS) has a team dedicated to ensuring Winnipeg’s most vulnerable people receive medical support, where they reside in the community.

The Emergency Paramedic In the Community – or EPIC – program launched more than 10 years ago in Winnipeg, and since then has responded to nearly 9,000 incidents, including more than 400 since January 2020.

The EPIC team is staffed with Advanced Care Paramedics who are dedicated to providing care to residents who otherwise may not receive it.

“Our patients often face barriers to accessing medical care,” said Karen Martin, District Chief of Paramedic Operations for the WFPS.

Community Paramedics travel in SUVs and provide early health assessments and intervention to vulnerable patients.

Paramedics often provide referrals for home care, primary care, and geriatric program assessment teams. EPIC members continue to follow up with these patients until adequate services are in place to address their needs.

This program, which launched its second unit last year, creates efficiency for the rest of the department too.

Martin said it’s more than providing care where it is needed. When EPIC gets involved with a client, it decreases repeat calls to 911 while creating relationships with patients and building trust.

Martin added that sometimes community paramedics will be called to assess a living space for potential trip hazards and making adjustments; other times they may be called if a firefighter or paramedic responding to another incident feels there is a need for a non-urgent medical or social service follow up in the home.

In the spirit of community response, the EPIC program has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by offering mobile COVID-19 testing for residents if needed.

“The EPIC program is built to bring supports to people where they are, and mobile COVID-19 testing is just another way we can serve Winnipeg residents if a need for more mobile testing units arises,” said Martin.

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