There is a new face at the helm of the new EMS department at Northern Rockies Medical Center. Curtis Harper started working with NRMC on a part-time basis back in the summer of 2019 as the Emergency Management Coordinator and, in July of 2020, he was offered and accepted the EMS Manager position.
It was then the transition process started, moving EMS from under Glacier County to NRMC. The transition was completed Oct. 1.
Harper brings both experience and knowledge to his new position. He served as Director of Public Safety, Emergency Management and Director of Forensic Investigation for three sister hospitals, St. James Hospital in Butte, St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings and Holy Rosary Hospital in Miles City. He also worked in that capacity for 36 of their outlying clinics in Montana and northern Wyoming.
“In those roles, I gained valuable work experience with trauma activations and triage. I was part of many improvement drills around stroke care and understanding how seconds count. I really wanted to make this a focus for EMS prehospital care and the transfer and follow-up within the hospital setting,” he shared.
“With my emergency management knowledge, I hope to assist our County Disaster Emergency Ser-vices with rebuilding a strong Local Emergency Planning Committee that not only has a solid diverse membership, but one that is actively working towards goals and improvement plans within the community,” he added.
Knowing he had a good background in emergency management, Harper felt he would bring what the team at NRMC was looking for when rebuilding the EMS program.
“What really interested me in taking the EMS Manager job was the fact that I would be able to be part of leading a team to rebuild the EMS program from the ground up and establish it as a successful hospital-based ambulance service,” he said. “And the fact that we had some great people stay on with NRMC who had previously worked for the county was a great opportunity to see what worked and what did not.”
He continued, “We truly owe these employees a debt of gratitude as they had put in massive amounts of hours while being short-staffed to ensure that our community had 24/7 emergency 911 coverage. All of this combined with my main goal of rebuilding a solid and trustworthy relationship with the great community of Cut Bank and the surrounding areas, was enough for me to know I wanted to be part of it.”
NRMC’s EMS program is still in the hiring mode for both paramedics and EMTs. They currently have 10 full-time and part-time employees, along with three wildland firefighter EMTs and two National Guardsmen to assist with driving the ambulance on transfers. The services they are offering are Basic Life Support and Advanced Life Support.
They are also working with the Unified Health Command Team, using one ambulance for hospital transfers from facilities located along the Hi-Line to larger medical centers. They have already performed multiple transfers for hospitals as far away as Havre and Fort Belknap, taking those patients to larger facilities from Kalispell to Billings and anything in between.
That same ambulance is also being used for returning swing-bed patients from larger facilities back to the smaller critical care access hospitals located along the Hi-Line.
The other ambulance in the program is used for 911 calls. “We, of course, always make 911 services in the Cut Bank and surrounding areas, our priority,” said Harper.
NRMC hopes to have a third ambulance in the next few days, giving them three ambulances to use for 911 calls or transfers.
With his background and experience, Harper is a good fit for the job. He not only wants to see this department succeed under the NRMC umbrella, but he wants it to remain in this community for a long time into the future.
“We truly appreciate all of the support from our community members and business partners in ensuring EMS is a successful part of our community for many years to come,” he concluded.