Health Watch: Why Hartford Fire wants to hire a community nurse

Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 5:44 PM EST
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HARTFORD, Vt. (WCAX) - The Hartford Fire Department wants to expand its staff, not for an additional firefighter but rather a community nurse.

Seventy percent of the calls firefighters in Hartford respond to are for medical emergencies.

“It goes from a patient who just needs assistance getting up off the floor and back into bed again all the way to a drug overdose to CPR in progress,” Hartford Fire Chief Scott Cooney said.

Of the thousands of medical calls Hartford responds to every year, more than 50% are for people 65 and older. Because of that, the department wants to hire a community nurse.

“Why did that person fall in the first place? Was there issues with noncompliance with medications? Do they have a lack of primary care?” Cooney said.

It’s a preventive role that’s already been implemented in neighboring departments.

“Part of the goal is it have those ambulances be more available,” said Jeremy Thibeault, a Lebanon community paramedic.

Lebanon has had a dedicated community paramedic on staff for the last two years.

“We are seeing that we are reducing 911 calls. We are reducing the frequency of emergency room visits. You know, emergency room overcrowding is a huge problem everywhere in the country,” Thibeault said.

And officials say the ER trips are very expensive which ultimately can increase costs for everyone.

The community nurse’s salary in Hartford would be around $90,000 a year.

“To do an ambulance transport and a transport to the hospital, we are talking thousands of dollars that’s impacting that individual,” Cooney said. “They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

The town select board will ultimately have to approve the position before the department can begin the hiring process. The review of that budget is currently underway.