It’s taking longer for ambulances to get to emergencies in Multnomah County, data shows

Concerning numbers are coming out of Multnomah County showing ambulances are getting to emergencies later
Published: Jun. 15, 2023 at 10:01 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Concerning numbers are coming out of Multnomah County showing ambulances are getting to emergencies later and in some instances, no ambulances were available to send to emergencies.

Multnomah County has a contract with American Medical Response, or AMR. Recently, the Multnomah County EMS Contract Compliance Rate and Regulation Committee posted a six month review.

A breakdown of the calls per months compliancy has progressively fallen. In March of 2022, all system compliance stood at nearly 90%. By February 2023 all system compliance stood at just under 72%.

“Recruitment for Multnomah County has presented a significant challenge for A-M-R because of the dual-paramedic requirement and because of the difficulties first responders face while working in a more urban setting like Portland,” A spokesperson for American Medical Response said. “First responders in Multnomah County respond to a high number of calls where patients require more than just emergency medical care, but social services and mental health resources.”

Multnomah County officials say they’ve directed the Health Department and county legal to analyze and update recommendations on ambulance response time issues, including decisions not to levy fines, a staffing pilot, and other alternatives in hopes of improving performance and response times.

This comes as AMR is expanding into Washington County later this year after the county decided to not renew a contract with Metro West.

A spokesperson for Metro West told FOX 12, “On March 24th of this year, Washington County denied Metro West Ambulance’s protest regarding the RFP for 9-1-1 Emergency Medical Ambulance Service. Metro West has been working with the county and stakeholders during this transition. Metro West Ambulance has been serving the citizens of the Washington County area for over 70 years and we remain committed to our community.”

“EMS operations in Multnomah and Washington Counties are very hard to compare,” Mary Sawyers, Communications Coordinator for Washington County Public Health said.

“First, Multnomah County receives three times the number of emergency calls that we do in Washington County. Second, in Multnomah County AMR will be required to have two paramedics per ambulance. Our administrative rules allow for one paramedic and one emergency medical technician for calls that require advanced life support skills and two EMTs when basic life support skills are needed. This tiered system allows us to provide the right resources for the best patient care. Finally in Washington County, when an ambulance is not immediately available for a 9-1-1 call and the person needs immediate transport to the hospital, fire has the capacity to transport.”

A spokesperson for AMR continued their statement saying:

“American Medical Response will be prepared to serve Washington County when the contract begins in six weeks. We have already hired over eighty percent of the paramedics and ninety percent of the EMTs needed to serve the County and will continue to recruit so that we fully staffed by August 1.”