Kootenay Emergency Response Physicians Association (KERPA) has been doing a lot of growing in the past few years. That hard work has now paid off with an elite emergency medical services designation.
KERPA was recently awarded a special operations accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems, making it the first organization in Canada and the third in the world to earn the designation.
It’s a big accomplishment for an organization that is only a few years old. KERPA became a non-profit agency in 2016 and a registered charity in 2018. With a full board of directors and volunteer staff looking after everything from finances to quality control and safety, the organization has become a well-oiled machine.
KERPA’s president Dr. Nicholas Sparrow says the accreditation is important for several reasons. It’s a recognition that they deliver a service of quality to the public that meets an international standard of excellence and Sparrow says that is of particular importance to others in the emergency services field. It also shows KERPA is focused on patient care and transport safety.
KERPA is funded by private donations and grants, they do not get financial support or collect fees from the federal or provincial governments. Sparrow says the new designation also shows donors and supporters that the organization has undergone a rigorous assessment and they can feel secure their financial gifts are being used well.
There were a lot of steps involved with earning the new accreditation. Policy and procedures manuals had to be created, quality and safety committees were set up, national and international standards of pre-hospital care had to be guaranteed, and record keeping and financial accounting made top notch. It’s about a lot more than offering medical assistance at the scene of an emergency.
It took about 300 hours of volunteer time over the past two years to prepare for the application and inspection process.
And then there is the KERPA vehicle — an SUV loaded with more gear than most ambulances — at a price tag of about $100,000. On board you will find a portable ultrasound machine, femoral traction splints, cardiac monitors, suction devices, adult and pediatric trauma kits, an array of medications including pain relief and a host of other life-saving equipment.
KERPA can provide ultrasound, video laryngoscope, rapid sequence intubation, surgical procedures, cardiac monitoring and advanced cardiac arrest care right at the scene of an incident.
Sparrow isn’t just the president of the organization, he is also the one attending the calls. He’s an emergency room physician with a passion for getting advanced medical care out to the scene of emergencies. His goal is to save lives and help the critically ill and injured.
Sparrow says supporting the existing emergency services with an emergency physician on the scene benefits the patient — and all emergency responders.
He says he has witnessed the impact the physician response model has had in the United Kingdom and South Africa. After moving to Canada and seeing no government support for the same service in the province or country, Sparrow decided to start something himself.
Currently, KERPA works in collaboration with British Columbia Emergency Health Services, supporting their emergency services. But Sparrow hopes that in the future other agencies such as police and fire departments would be able to call for help directly.
As part of the accreditation, Sparrow had to be certified in advanced life support, pediatric advanced life support, neonatal advanced life support, incident command, tactical emergency casualty care and medical director, all on top of his medical degree.
“It’s not just doing ‘emergency doctor’ work on the scene, it’s a completely different animal,” says Sparrow. “There are a lot more dangers, you are out on your own, there is a lot more to think about. No one is drawing up medications for you — you are doing it all.”
In the last seven years, KERPA has responded to more than 600 calls.
In the future, Sparrow sees KERPA becoming an ever-growing resource throughout the region — responding to more calls in more communities and training more physicians to join the team.
“We have put a lot of time and effort into proving that this works — and I believe it does,” says Sparrow. “That is why I volunteer most of my time to do it. We are trying to bring life-saving care to the Kootenay region.”