In Southern, Nevada some firefighters are keeping close tabs on the private ambulances they deal with every day. In Clark County, Las Vegas and North Las Vegas there are concerns that American Medical Response (AMR) wants a bigger piece of the EMS pie than they currently have. Firefighters are making the case AMR isn’t do a good job under its current contract.
AMR General Manager Mike Gorman told the Las Vegas Journal-Review, “AMR is disappointed with what we believe are unfounded political attacks of distortion by the Fire Unions to drive its agenda and to take away private sector jobs. We are extremely proud of our EMTs and paramedics. Our EMTs and paramedics serve the citizens and area professionally, honorably, and provide excellent clinical care.”
The three jurisdictions involved have a dual-response emergency medical system. When a medical call comes in, teams are dispatched from the nearest fire department, and a private ambulance is dispatched too. The fire department’s response time goals are faster: four minutes to eight minutes.
The system allows fire department ambulances to return to duty instead of having to transport patients to the hospital, which can take up a lot of time. But if a patient is in need of immediate care, the fire department will do the transporting.
“I can tell you, point blank, we have no interest in trying to privatize the fire department out of EMS. We value that relationship,”said John Wilson with AMR.
Firefighters are expected to respond within six minutes at least 90 percent of the time. It’s twice that figure for AMR, 12 minutes 90 percent of the time. If they arrive late, they can be fined.
“There are multiple times we see them arrive in 20, 25 minutes, 24 minutes. We don’t know. We can’t control them,” said Hurley.
“It is 4,687 times for the first six months. That is documented through the Ambulance Oversight Committee, that AMR and MedicWest have basically told the committee, ‘We were late this amount of times.’ So, it isn’t the union saying it. It is their records that we are using,” said Fletcher.
But, firefighters say it’s worse than that, alleging the companies play deadly games to make it look like they arrive in 12 minutes, so they can meet the standard of 90 percent.
They showed 8 News NOW records from 911 calls where AMR’s dispatch switches the designated ambulance two or three times in the middle of a single call. They say that restarts the clock. We were also shown cases where the company dispatchers change the address they are seeking, so it looks like a new call, and they can arrive in time. On some occasions, the unions say, the companies call off the fire department by claiming they are already on the scene even when they aren’t.
In one instance, a nine-year-old boy was in respiratory arrest. The ambulance company called in to say it was already on the scene and told the fire department it wasn’t needed. The firefighters kept going anyway. When they arrived, they found no ambulance on the scene.