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Penalties issued for slow ambulance response times

<i>KPTV</i><br/>Multnomah County will begin to issue penalties for American Medical Response
Multnomah County will begin to issue penalties for American Medical Response

By Anne Murphy

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    PORTLAND, Oregon (KPTV) — Multnomah County will begin to issue penalties for American Medical Response, Inc. (AMR) for performance issues with ambulance response times.

Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson issued a statement on her decision to begin issuing the penalties to the sole ambulance provider in the county.

“My patience is exhausted. AMR’s ambulance response times are unacceptable and they have not met performance metrics in months, requiring that we take action,” said Chair Vega Pederson. “We tried working with AMR to improve this situation without success. As a result, we’ve informed AMR today that we will be exercising our contractual authority to levy penalties for their ongoing non-compliance. We’re also reserving our right to levy penalties for prior non-compliance. In addition, we’re piloting two programs to help address management of the current increased 911 medical call volume and considering other solutions.”

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, AMR response times to 911 calls have consistently deteriorated each month. Their reasoning is an inability to staff all ambulances needed to meet the time requirements in their contract with Multnomah County.

AMR has reported that they could potentially fix the issues with actions including a staffing improvement plan which was submitted to the County in June of 2022. The County launched pilot programs to send ambulances with EMTs to lower acuity cases in May 2023. But AMR is unable to provide the necessary staff or reduced response times.

The County Health Department has notified AMR that it expects them to meet the response times required by the County’s contract in Aug. Failure to do so will result in fines monthly for their performance.

Chair Vega Pederson notified both the Gresham Mayor and City Council of her actions in response to recent concerns.

In a statement, a spokesperson for American Medical Response said:

“American Medical Response takes the responsibility of staffing its Multnomah operation and meeting obligations very seriously. We have made extensive efforts to communicate the severity and external causes of paramedic staffing shortages nationwide to the County. However, we disagree with the County’s current stance.

“AMR wants to assure members of the community that we are doing everything within our power to fulfill our responsibilities and address the staffing shortages. We remain open to working collaboratively with the County to find a resolution, including moving to a Paramedic and EMT staffing model like systems across the country.”

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