Community paramedics: New twist on an old job

- Manatee County community paramedic Earl Kulpa works to treat patients before they need to dial 911.  For the last year and a half, Manatee has employed four such community paramedics that travel across the county. 

"Their approaches keep you out of the hospital in coordinating your care and getting you to primary care facilities," Chief James Crutchfield explained.

Kulpa and his colleagues set up appointments with patients, check on their well-being, help with prescriptions and set general physician appointments.  

"It's dealing with people and their chronic medical conditions. Keeping that from becoming an emergency in the first place," said Kulpa. 

Kulpa's truck is equipped with everything needed for an emergency, from heart monitors to blood pressure cuffs and emergency medicine. 

Since the program started, they've worked with 144 patients, cutting down on more than 500 non-emergency ambulance trips to the hospital.  To date it's estimated their work has saved $818,000 in avoidable health care costs. 

"Mobile-integrated health care is the wave of the future. I can definitely see a lot of aspects of medical care for patients going back to more in health care, almost like the times of the doctor with the house bag," said Kulpa. 

Kulpa joins the ranks of 112 other certified community paramedics across the country, but he's the first in Florida. He hopes not for long. 

"It's a great honor. I just hope that I'm the first of many more to come," he added. 

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