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Fishers firefighters helping former patients avoid additional hospital visits

FISHERS, Ind. -- Firefighters in Fishers are working overtime to make sure residents who are hospitalized don't find themselves back in the emergency room.

"We want to be proactive and not reactive," Fishers EMS Chief Steve Davison said. "Keep them out of the hospital in the first place and if they do get in the hospital, we want to make sure they are successful when they get back home so they don’t have to get readmitted.”

Chief Davison launched Fisher's Community Paramedic Program. He sends EMTs on their days off to the homes of patients who have recently been released from the hospital for a variety of conditions. The agency has partnered with Community Health and the hospital actually helps pay for the firefighters’ services through a grant.

“(The Community Paramedic Program) is another way for us to be a value to the community," Davison said. “It improves the health of the community and hopefully reduces the costs of healthcare within the community. Not only for our citizens, but also for the hospitals not having patients readmitted.”

Judy Parkes was one of the agency's first patients. She found herself in the hospital for congestive heart failure.

“I was so thankful to be alive, because I know I could have slipped away very easily, but I didn’t know anything about the congestive heart failure disease," Parkes said. “When I got ready to leave the hospital I thought, 'come home with me and help me out.'”

Parkes left the hospital with a handful of new medications and several life changes recommended by the doctor.

Within 24 hours of being home, a Fishers firefighter was at her door ready to help with her transition. The firefighter took her vitals, gave her guidelines on how to monitor her health and even showed her tips on how to live a low-sodium diet.

"I felt like a key part in helping me to maintain life as it is now is because of the support of the fire department," Parkes said.

Currently, the Fishers and Carmel fire departments are the only agencies offering community paramedic programs, but this is a trend in the industry that is picking up steam nationally, Davison said.