Fighting a pandemic requires partnerships and the most recent partnership in the fight against COVID-19 in northcentral Montana involves the Glacier County EMS, Northern Rockies Medical Center (NRMC) and the Montana Disaster and Emergency Services Incident Command. Glacier County Chief Financial Officer Chancy Kittson signed a contract on April 7 allowing for the use of three county-owned ambulances for use by the COVID-19 Hi-Line Response unit organized last week. The Glacier County Commissioners were expected to confirm the contract this week.
“We are all in this together. It is great that Glacier County was willing to be a regional partner and utilize its ambulances to serve during this critical time,” said Cherie Taylor, CEO of Northern Rockies Medical Center. “Patients in Glacier, Toole, Pondera and maybe other surrounding counties will be able to benefit if a transport is needed to a larger facility for COVID-19.”
According to the contract, the Hi-Line Response staff will be paid by the State of Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) as “emergency hires.” This includes two critical care paramedics, six Montana National Guardsmen and/or women and the Glacier County Sheriff’s Office staff.
“We worked with other leaders on the Hi-Line to establish a Unified Incident Command to begin coordination activities with all medical facilities and agencies in Glacier, Toole and Pondera Counties,” said Robert Sandman, Incident Commander.
“In addition to coordinating an intra-facility ambulance service, we have been able to establish a Virtual Joint Information Center, establish a labor pool to support staffing needs at health care facilities, facilitate logistical support to ensure adequate supplies, and establish resources and procedures to address surge, including hospitalists and intensivists (via telehealth) and rapid deployment of nursing teams. It’s been a pleasure working with everyone on the Hi Line,” continued Sandman.
Glacier County will receive $100 per day for each of its three ambulances ($300 per day total) for 90 days. This fee will be paid by Montana Disaster and Emergency Services.
Under terms of the contract, NRMC will provide any needed COVID-19 supplies for the ambulance transports and 911 transports. NRMC will bill Glacier County for 911 transport supplies at a later day.
“It is critical times like this that brings communities together for a common good. We enjoy working as a regional team for the health of our communities with everyone else,” stated Taylor.
Each ambulance is earmarked for a specific purpose.
•COVID-19 Ambulance–Cut Bank
•911 Ambulance–Cut Bank area
DNRC will pay the wages for all three ambulance crews, including shift and call-out pay.
Glacier County will not be required to pay any wages for on call pay, 911 calls or transfers.
The COVID-19 transfers will be made for patients needing higher levels of care at either Kalispell Regional Medical Center in Kalispell or Benefis in Great Falls.
The contract does not, however, include EMS employees in the Babb/St. Mary area, who will continue to be paid by Glacier County for call and call-out.
“Glacier County EMS is very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the Hi-Line Response effort to serve Glacier County and the surrounding areas during this difficult time,” said Tauna Evans, Interim Director, Glacier County EMS. “We have been working very hard to make sure we provide the services our citizens expect and deserve.”
Evans continued, “The National Guard has sent in a great group of people to help us staff ambulances. Already we have had several people commit to helping feed the EMS and National Guard members. The community has been very supportive and we are very appreciative and extend our thanks,” she added.
Sandman concluded, “My team is impressed with how committed the counties and healthcare facilities are to providing the best possible care in your communities.”