Valley healthcare providers receive millions in provincial COVID funding

By Jake Davies - West Carleton Online

OTTAWA VALLEY – The Arnprior Regional Health (ARH) and the Lanark County Paramedic Service (LCPS) have both received more than $3.2 million COVID-related funding announcements over the last two weeks.

Today, ARH announced it has received $2.3 million in funding “to strengthen the organization’s cash position,” while the LCPS announced $3.25 million in provincial funding to expand its Community Paramedicine Program.

In response to the financial impact of COVID-19, the provincial government has announced more than $1.2 billion in additional funding for Ontario hospitals that creates financial stability for Arnprior Regional Health (ARH) leading into the next fiscal year.

“Our government recognized the need for timely and targeted investments in the healthcare system to ensure we are able to respond to unprecedented demands caused by COVID-19,” Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP John Yakabuski released in a statement today (March 22). “These investments will assist hospitals in achieving financial stability while we continue our efforts to mitigate the impact of the virus. While financial support is helping to turn the tide of the pandemic, none of the changes and positive impact could be achieved without the extraordinary efforts and commitment of the healthcare professionals working in numerous sectors across Renfrew County to support the health and safety of our communities.”

The Ontario government will provide ARH with up to $2.3 million in additional, one-time working capital funding to strengthen the organization’s cash position.  By having an improved cash position, ARH can continue to support with bridge financing the local vaccination rollout and the ongoing operation of the Renfrew County Virtual Triage and Assessment Centre. The Ministry of Health (MoH) has also committed up to $900,000 in one-time funding to cover lost revenue in hospital operations due to COVID-19 such as reduced parking, decreased preferred accommodations and reduced volumes of WSIB services.

“This is great news for ARH and other small to medium-sized hospitals across Ontario who were forecasting deficits this year due to the unprecedented and unexpected costs and revenue reduction caused by COVID-19,” ARH President Eric Hanna said. “This funding helps ensure hospitals are financially stable and well positioned to deploy resources as we navigate our way out of this pandemic.”

ARH’s exact funding amounts for the working capital and revenue reduction will be confirmed later this spring when the MoH releases further details on eligible costs and/or adjustments to the generic funding formula released today.

“Today’s funding announcement puts ARH in a good position to balance the budget this fiscal year and continue our financial and operational support of the large-scale pandemic-related initiatives in 2021-22,” Hanna said.

“The LCPS and Almonte General Hospital (AGH) are pleased to announce an injection of funding from the Ontario government to expand their Community Paramedicine Program (CPP),” AGH communications lead Jane Adams released in a statement March 8. “This funding will provide additional support for eligible seniors with 24/7 access to community paramedicine services including non-emergency home visits, wellness checks, and in-home diagnostic testing and treatments.”

A community paramedic performs a home visit.
Community paramedicine services include non-emergency home visits, wellness checks, and in-home diagnostic testing and treatments. Courtesy AGH

LCPS began working on establishing a CPP in 2016, launching a pilot program in 2018. They haven’t looked back since.

“The Lanark County Council recently recognized LCPS for their dedicated service to the community and the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Their hard work is making a difference. The Community Paramedics will now be able to do even more with this additional government support,” AGH President Mary Wilson Trider said.

The community paramedics have an ever-expanding roster of clients who have difficulty accessing care. They often require various treatments that can be completed by trained paramedics in their home rather than in hospital. This additional funding will allow for the launch of a three-year Community Paramedic Long-Term Care pilot program. It will provide proactive, specialized care to residents waiting for long-term care. It will also include the addition of remote patient monitoring.

“As Carleton Place and District Memorial Hospital’s chief of staff and a local family physician, I have witnessed the outstanding work of our local community paramedics, especially during the pandemic,” Dr. Jamie Fullerton said. “From being the backbone of our community COVID-19 testing to providing timely home visits for isolated patients, they have proven irreplaceable. These home visits have proven to be immensely effective at helping physicians to proactively keep our patients where they most often wish to be – in their own homes. The local physicians are excited that this program will continue.”

“We have a significant number of residents on the long-term care waitlist and this initiative will help ensure they receive the right care in the right place,” LCPS chief Travis Mellema said.  “This is a significant milestone in the development of our program. I would like to recognize the many paramedics and management staff in our Service who have worked tirelessly over the past several years to grow and build this program from its infancy.  I’m very proud to be able to work with such an amazing group of individuals.”

The Lanark County CPP has served 276 clients since its pilot launch in 2018. This care ramped up significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic when many clients found it difficult to access primary care. In fact, referrals for the program rose by 267 per cent in 2020 as compared to 2019. 

Last year, community paramedics completed more than 400 home visits at the request of physicians, discharge nurses, and home and community care providers.

“We act as a liaison between clients and their nurse practitioner or primary care provider and we also provide medical treatments in consultation with physicians,” Mellema said.  “Additionally, our team has provided in-home Influenza vaccines and COVID-19 testing for high risk or mobility challenged individuals. We will also be extending this practice with the COVID-19 vaccines.”

The LCPS provides emergency response service for an area encompassing almost 3,000 square kilometres with a population of over 70,000. It responds to approximately 25,000 calls for service each year.

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