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The HSE officially launched a tender process 12 months ago seeking a provider for the service aimed at making more efficient use of GP resources at North-East Doctor on Call (NEDOC), but to date, no contract has been awarded.
Ms Arlene Fitzsimons, Operations Manager at NEDOC, confirmed to the Medical Independent (MI) that no progress had been made on the plans, adding that attention had now turned to the potential of newly-appointed community paramedics in the region. The community paramedic project, supported by the cross-border health and social care partnership Co-operation And Working Together (CAWT), commenced in September 2017, when four community paramedics were hired.
The community paramedics see and treat patients in counties Monaghan and Donegal.
Ms Fitzsimons said that the project could be expanded in the out-of-hours service, if proven to be successful. “We hope the project could be expanded if it shows a benefit to patients. We hope in the future they could do more community work and support GPs. The project is about keeping patients out of hospital and avoiding unnecessary referrals to hospital,” she said.
Currently, two paramedics operating in Monaghan see patients at GP surgeries and NEDOC, conducting home and nursing home visits. The paramedics do not work overnight.
The project is a partnership between the HSE National Ambulance Service (NAS), the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) and Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS). It is also operating in Co Tyrone and south-west Scotland.
The paramedics assess and treat low-acuity illness and injuries and can respond in instances where an emergency ambulance is not available due to the absence of staff, according to the HSE.