Lifeline Delayed: AMR on “improvement plan” over delays

Target 8

The EMS Consortium of Kent County meeting. (Feb. 18, 2020)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — An emergency services oversight panel has placed American Medical Response on a six-month improvement plan due to delayed response times.

The EMS Consortium of Kent County made the decision at its regular meeting Tuesday, one day after Target 8 reported AMR had failed to meet response time standards on some of the most urgent calls throughout 2019.

John Robben of AMR told consortium members Tuesday that at one point last year, the ambulance provider was short 54 emergency medical technicians.

Each AMR ambulance is staffed with an EMT and a paramedic.

Robben, AMR’s regional director of operations, acknowledged in an earlier interview with Target 8 that the company struggled to maintain staffing levels in 2019, in part due to the nationwide shortage of paramedics and emergency medical technicians.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Robben, who took over as regional director in July 2019, said AMR has probably invested $1 million dollars in operational fixes.

Among the investments, AMR hired 52 new employees with plans to hire 100 more, purchased eight new ambulances and stopped offering non-core services.

“For too long, we’ve done too much with too little, and so we were purposeful in contracting our business to focus on our core customers — the largest being the consortium here,” Robben told consortium members. 

Robben also reported that, month to date, AMR is 94% compliant with response times.

Under a contract with consortium communities, ambulance companies have to meet standards on 90% of calls or they could face fines.

>> Inside Compliance subcommittee report (pdf)

In 2019, compliance on urban Priority 1 calls (8 minutes 59 seconds) fluctuated from as low as 80% to a fourth quarter high of 89%.

The consortium, which is made up of six cities and one township in Kent County, voted to hold off on fining AMR over 2019 numbers.

Instead, the group voted to place the ambulance provider on a six-month “improvement plan.”

Under the plan, AMR must submit monthly reports on urban Priority 1 response time compliance, the number of calls turned over to other ambulance providers, the number of new hires and staffing levels, both daily and total.

At the end of six months, the consortium will review AMR’s progress and either “declare compliance and waive fines or determine insufficient progress and take additional steps with regard to the breach,” according to a consortium committee report.

The seven communities that make up the consortium came together to sign a contract in 2016 with AMR, LIFE and Rockford Ambulance, each of which covers portions of Kent County.

It took the consortium time to develop effective, uniform reporting methods for ambulance response times.

“It’s good to know that the collaboration of seven local governments led to development of reporting on this topic, (and) the reporting allowed us to identify a need for improvement,” Ken Krombeen said in an email to Target 8.

Krombeen, who is Grandville’s city manager, chairs the consortium.

“That is exactly what the partnership was intended to do on behalf of our residents,” Krombeen wrote.

Consortium member communities include Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids, Grandville, Kentwood, Wyoming, Rockford and Plainfield Township.

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