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First Arriving Network

Ambulances to Back Off While Firetrucks Handle Medical Emergencies

(Something Just Doesn't Sound Right Here)

CLARK COUNTY, WASHINGTON, COMMISSIONERS HAVE reached a controversial agreement with their emergency medical provider that will cut back on their responses while increasing the involvement of the fire units.

American Medical Response (AMR) has complained that they are having difficulty making a profit and have requested the county allow them an additional two minutes of acceptable response time whenever the fire department is first to arrive on the scene of an EMS call.  Under the current agreement, AMR has to arrive on a call within 7 mins.-59 seconds at 90% of the incidents.  The new timeclock will give them 9 minutes-59 seconds if a fire unit is already on the scene.  The claim is that so many of the calls do not require transportation, so the FD can take care of the treatment while the ambulance goes back into service.

Vancouver Fire Station 3  (VFD photo)

The Columbian reports:

Vancouver Fire Chief Joe Molina said that EMS District 2 is just starting what could potentially be a massive overhaul of the way emergency ambulance services are provided in the county.

AMR’s contract expires in 2014, and the extension is necessary to keep the private company from walking away before the district is ready, he said.

"If we don’t help them, they’ll leave," Molina said. "We need time to redesign. (If not), we’re going to be put in the position of building it on the fly."

EMS District 2 does not pay AMR for its contract. However, the extension will save the company $250,000, half of which it will funnel back to the various local fire districts.

(Councilor Jeanne) Harris said there’s a contract in place that says AMR should be there in less than 8 minutes. She said she’d like to see it stay that way. "I feel like, wait a second, they’re going to save $250,000 but they can’t supply the service we’re contracting with them to do?" she asked.

She also said she was worried about a situation where a Vancouver Fire unit not staffed with a paramedic arrived on scene first, giving AMR time, but was then unable to provide advanced life support.

KATU-TV continues:  Clark County Regional EMS manager Doug Smith-Lee, says firefighters can get to the scene fast, within five minutes most times, and they can and should handle more of the calls.  "What we're trying to do is really recognize the resources that we have within the community, make the best use of those resources without compromising patient care," he said.

While the firefighters are at the scene, the ambulance gets two extra minutes to respond. They can make sure firefighters don’t need the extra help and don't need AMR to transport a patient to the hospital. That way they don't double up on services and costs. 

KATU-TV also filed this video report:


Read the full story in The Columbian HERE.

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