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Abulance service owner basks in glow of reaccreditation

For a third time, MedStar Ambulance has been awarded reaccreditation as an Emergency Medical Dispatch Center of Excellence by the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch. The Sparta-based ambulance service, which Charles Kelley founded in 1981, is only the 59th in the world to receive such distinction. Kelley recently talked to reporter Will Buss about this honor and his work in the emergency medical field:

Q: First, congratulations on your accomplishment. What does this mean for MedStar?

A: "I think this one means so much for us because everything to day is 911. We continue to rely on the ambulance more each day ...It's a three-your process we have to go through with calls on a monthly basis. We get a percentage of calls on quality assistance measured by a point system and evaluated and re-evaluated to meet 95 percent compliance ... We are training to deliver quality service, give advanced assistance on the phone when needed, whether it be respond to someone having a heart attack, tell how to do CPR, deliver a baby, that they meet the standards and that they are consistent."

Q: How did you get started?

A: "Our company started in 1981. In 1980, the Illinois Department of Public Health put in place an emergency medical service at which at that time, for the most part, tells you what an ambulance is supposed to do. Before then, many funeral homes had provided ambulance service. The reason they did was because they had the combined hearse or van they could virtually give somebody a ride to the hospital. The problem that some people had was that they had little of minimal training. They stat put together (licensing) and gave funeral homes a year for compliance. Many funeral homes never got to continue providing ambulance service because it wasn't the core of their business. In 1981, I purchased 3 ambulances from Hill Funeral Home ... to this day, we have 37 ambulances and 180 employees."

Q: On May 1, 2007, MedStar discontinued advanced life support service to Centreville, Alorton, East St. Louis, Sauget and Washington Park, citing a backlog in payment for services rendered. Will service return to those communities?

A: "We hope that is short-term. We have 3 units, plus we have units in Cahokia and north on (Illinois) 157 that constantly go down to areas to serve or assist them, and they have quicker response or better service that they had in May. We only hope to improve that more as we work with the community."

Q: What's most satisfying about your work?

A: " When you help that person in cardiac arrest today with the dispatcher, telling someone how to do CPR, getting that started immediately and breathing for them. And what with the advent of defibrillators in public places and making them accessible to first responders. Police departments and fire departments carry defibrillators and lead life support. And you put that all together and have someone who had virtually died, and you brought them back. In a few days you see them walk out of the hospital, you are very happy you were there to provide that service to the community."

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@ bnd.com or 345-7822, ext. 24.

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