Emergency Medical Services Consortium Could Begin Meeting Before Summer

A donation from a Kalispell couple is earmarked to help finance a new organization that will help support regional EMS groups

By Mike Kordenbrock
A Vitalogy EMS ambulance in Evergreen on April 13, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Logan Health is in the process of developing an emergency medical services consortium with the intent to improve coordination, training and functionality among regional EMS operations, including in rural communities.

Half a million dollars in funding from a donation by Kalispell residents Eddie and Candy DeBartolo has been earmarked for the new group. The couple have now donated $8 million to Logan Health, which makes them historically the organization’s largest donors.

Helping to spearhead the consortium’s formation is Ryan Pitts, Logan Health’s executive director for emergency medical services. In discussing what the consortium might be able to achieve, Pitts talks about identifying problems and then working towards solutions, which become more achievable through partnership. Training sessions, educational opportunities, improved collaboration, and grant funding to help with equipment purchases for tightly budgeted rural departments could all be facilitated by the consortium, according to Pitts.

“Really, how do we have a big organization where everyone gets together that everyone benefits from, and can reduce some of those burdens, especially in the education and training areas?” Pitts said.

Conversations around establishing the consortium were sparked by the Amtrak Empire Builder train derailment last September in Liberty County about 3 miles east of Joplin. The train had been carrying 146 passengers and 13 crew members and the derailment left three people dead and numerous others injured. Victims were taken to multiple hospitals in the state, including Benefis Health System hospital in Great Falls and the Logan Health Medical Center hospital in Kalispell.

“Those agencies on the Hi Line worked pretty good together, but they identified definitely some gaps of training and interoperability, inter-training amongst different departments and jurisdictions, communications gaps,” Pitts said.

“It really felt like this consortium idea was the idea to be able to get everyone in the same tent without it having to be like a business-to-business discussion,” Pitts said. 

 While he acknowledged that competition between EMS companies is real, Pitts described the goal of the consortium as improving interagency interaction with the benefit of patients being at the forefront. The consortium wouldn’t be restricted to just Montana, but would also look at bringing in partner agencies across borders in both Canada and Idaho.

Pitts hopes that the first meeting of the consortium takes place before this summer, maybe sometime between April and May.

“Then we start kind of getting plans together of where we’re going to go, what kind of trainings are we going to offer, what can we actually accomplish in the first year? What are the foundational principles of this consortium,” Pitts said. “And sort of look forward, maybe by next spring in one year to be able to have our first annual conference.”

Though the first annual conference might not be until 2023 Pitts said he doesn’t want to wait until then to start doing things into the summer and fall, like hosting incident command and mass casualty trainings.

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