AMR’s D.C. Crews Vote to Form Local Union

Source: EMS World, March 24, 2017

Nearly 200 EMS professionals at American Medical Response (AMR) have voted to form a local union with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 20.  The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) conducted the union election on Tuesday and Thursday. The NLRB counted ballots Thursday evening with more than 70% voting in favor of unionizing. EMTs and paramedics at AMR transport patients to and from facilities across the metro area and provide backup 9-1-1 medical response in coordination with the DC Fire Department. The private EMS provider signed a contract with the district in 2017. Workers formed a union to address ongoing issues that impact patient care, such as scheduling, fatigue, training, equipment and employee turnover. …


D.C. private ambulance drivers consider unionizing
Source: Sam Ford, WJLA, March 21, 2017
In the year since the American Medical Response private ambulances came on, the number of horror stories around D.C. ambulance care have mostly gone away. But workers are voting Tuesday and Thursday on whether to have the AFSCME, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, union represent them. Since march of last year, AMR’s private ambulances take the low priority patients in D.C. freeing up the city’s ambulance for the more serious cases. But some of the EMTs and paramedics of AMR are saying they are pushing for a union, hoping for better equipment, better training and scheduling. … D.C. currently spends $12 million a year with AMR.

EMTs for DC contractor say personal vehicles being broken into while they respond to 911 calls
Source: Tisha Lewis, FOX5, February 9, 2017

[Ed. Note: AFSCME is currently organizing these workers]

Several first responders for a city medical transportation contractor said thieves are breaking into their cars while they are responding to emergency calls across the District.  Ambulances for American Medical Response are dispatched to several hospitals around Washington D.C. But their employees said a parking problem at work is making their cars targets to theft.  Paramedic Kyle Seymour said his employers refuses to move the ambulances in their parking lot to give workers a place to park in. …

D.C. 911 response times under scrutiny
Source: Sam Ford, WFLA, October 5, 2016

If you thought the city’s ambulance availability problem was solved when DC hired a private ambulance company to add an additional 25 units to the streets, not so said paramedics in a hearing of the DC Council today. Holly O’Byrne, a paramedic and chief shop steward of the DC Ambulance Union, complains that regular ambulances waste a lot of time waiting for private ambulances from AMR, American Medical Response, to arrive and transport to hospitals patients deemed not to be in serious condition. … Paramedic say DC patients are using AMR ambulances as a taxi, even able to tell which hospital they want to go to, overcrowding those hospitals ER departments, so the serious patients have to be transported elsewhere. …

Ambulances take longer to reach you if you live east of the Anacostia River
Source: Daniel Henebery, Greater Greater Washington, September 2, 2016

Three anecdotes do not constitute a trend, but according to the data, ambulances responding to critical 911 calls east of the Anacostia seem to have difficulty meeting the city’s own standards for ambulance response times. DC’s contract with the private ambulance company, American Medical Response (AMR), stipulates that the company is expected to respond to 90% of all calls in less than 10 minutes. Applying this standard on a per-neighborhood basis allows us to see where response times are adequate and where they are not. Take a look at the map above. Areas that tend to meet the 10%-or-less standard are clustered around the center of the city, near the preponderance of DC’s medical facilities and high-speed travel corridors. Areas east of the Anacostia fare much worse, particularly from about noon to the early evening and in Ward 7 neighborhoods at the eastern edge of the city. … Mr. Beaton indicates that since the contract with AMR started, response times have fallen city-wide. Any improvement is good, but increasing the number of ambulances on the road and augmenting FEMS resources are short-term improvements. They do not address the underlying structural issues: the chokepoint across the bridge and the dearth of trauma centers east of the Anacostia . …

DC Private Ambulances Fail To Speed Up Dragging Emergency Responses
Source: Steve Birr, The Daily Caller, August 24, 2016

Slow response times continue to plague Washington, D.C., emergency services, despite officials spending $9 million on a private ambulance contract. D.C. officials hired a third-party ambulance service contracted from American Medical Response (AMR) in April to alleviate the burden on the D.C. Fire and EMS Department, which is often criticized for slow response times. Initial AMR data showed the ambulances were only on time 73 percent of the time. The contract mandates a maximum response time of 10 minutes 90 percent of the time, or face fines. District officials have failed to enforce the monetary penalty, reports NBC Washington. After a review of the response times, officials with AMR revised the statistics, but ambulances were still late 18 percent of the time. … The year-long, $9 million contract is also intended to help replace the existing fleet of ambulances, which have regular mechanical failures and need constant repair. Officials said they have not enforced fines on AMR over responses yet, because of a marked increase in the number of 911 calls this summer. The contract anticipated a maximum of 165 calls for AMR ambulances a day. They are currently averaging 180. …

Uber Is Gradually Replacing Public Services
Source: Tess Townsend, Inc, July 13, 2016

If you live in Washington, D.C., next time you dial 911 for a medical emergency, instead of riding to the hospital in the back of an ambulance, there’s a chance you could find yourself in the back seat of a black Prius with free bottled water and chewing gum. NBC Washington reports that Washington D.C. Fire and EMS Department is considering working with the ridesharing mega-startup Uber, or with conventional taxis, to help handle the department’s excessive load of emergency calls. … But, given that the company already has partnerships with public agencies in other regions, hearing that D.C. emergency services leaders are considering this doesn’t come as too big a surprise. …

Uber for 911 transport is a horrible idea
Source: John Mannes, Tech Crunch, July 12, 2016

The Washington D.C. Fire and EMS Department is considering a plan to use Uber to transport low priority 911 callers, according to NBC Washington. It’s a horrible idea. Washington’s plan is to hire a team of nurses who could evaluate a caller’s condition over the phone and direct them to an Uber if they are deemed stable. Already this is odd given that the purpose of an emergency responder is to evaluate the condition of a 911 caller. … To account for potential deterioration in the condition of a transport, the Uber would need to be equipped with sirens, lights, and an extensive radio system for communication, added Haralambous. … In all of these partnerships, the decision-making power rests with the rider. A rider can choose to ride whenever and wherever they would like. The problem with DC’s plan is that the health and safety of 911 callers would rest on the shoulders of a remote nurse who would be unable to visually assess the condition of a caller. This puts the patient in an unnecessarily dangerous situation simply because the city’s budget cannot keep up with 911 call volume. …

DC Private Ambulances Arrive Within 10 Minutes 75 Percent of the Time, Data Shows
Source: NBC Washington, April 13, 2016

The third-party company American Medical Response (AMR) began responding to non-life-threatening 911 calls last month. AMR responds to calls from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m., seven days a week. While D.C. Fire & EMS is continuing to transport patients withal life-threatening or time-sensitive conditions, such as cardiac arrest, stroke and major trauma, AMR is transporting patients with minor injuries or illnesses, such as colds or sprained ankles. On an almost daily basis, D.C. Fire & EMS runs low on ambulances due to a high volume of calls for service. And even with the new private ambulances, it can still take 15 to 30 minutes for an ambulance to get a patient to the hospital. … While private ambulances are available most of the time during alpha holds, they can transport only patients with non-life-threatening injuries or illnesses. And while the private ambulances are required to arrive within 10 minutes, the data shows that’s not always the case.

Data shows that, during the first two weeks of service, private ambulances showed up within:

  • 10 minutes or less:75 percent of the time
  • 10-15 minutes: 17 percent of the time
  • 15 minutes or more: 8 percent of the time, with 11 of those transports taking 30 minutes

AMR’s contract with the District requires the private ambulance company to arrive within 10 minutes of being dispatched 90 percent of the time each month. If AMR fails to meet that standard, the District can impose financial penalties.

D.C. EMTs say private ambulances have not provided time for training
Source: Ryan M. McDermott, Washington Times, April 12, 2016

In the two weeks since private ambulances began operating in the District, emergency medical technicians say they aren’t getting the time to train as they had been promised by fire officials. What’s more, the D.C. fire department won’t be able to pull ambulances off the streets for training as summer approaches, they told a D.C. Council budget panel Tuesday. “There has been no increased opportunity for training since [American Medical Response] came on streets 15 days ago,” said Darlene Nelson, vice president of Local 3721 of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents D.C. paramedics. … Ms. Nelson said if training doesn’t start soon, it might not ever happen because calls for medical services increase during the summer. …

Private ambulances deployed to ease the District’s 911 burden
Source: Clarence Williams, Washington Post, April 10, 2016

Though the start has been promising, fire officials acknowledge there have been some glitches as the effort launches. AMR ran out of available ambulances six times in the first 10 days of operations, and each episode lasted between four and six minutes, D.C. fire officials said. The contractor operates between 7 a.m. and 1 a.m. daily. The city and AMR are trying to pin down the data on response times, as preliminary statistics show that the company failed to reach calls by the contracted ­10-minute window during 30 percent to 40 percent of calls during the first week. …

Memos: DC Fire, Private Ambulance Computers Cause Delays
Source: NBC Washington, March 29, 2016

News4’s Mark Segraves obtained internal memos from the D.C. Fire and EMS Department that highlight compatibility issues between city units and AMR, creating delays in the transportation of patients. AMR computers and D.C. fire computers do not speak to one another, so patient information cannot be transferred electronically. As a result, D.C. firefighters and EMS personnel must remain on a scene and transfer information by hand on paper forms. AMR units are not allowed to be used for any life-threatening calls, even if no D.C. ambulance is available. A cardiac arrest patient had to wait 28 minutes for a D.C. ambulance though an AMR ambulance was nearby.

Private Ambulance Service to Begin Serving DC
Source: NBC Washington, March 28, 2016

AMR will begin responding to non-life-threatening 911 calls from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m., seven days a week.  D.C. Fire & EMS will be the first to arrive to all 911 calls in the District. Once they’re on the scene, they will determine how the patient will get to the hospital. … Bowser and D.C. FEMS Chief Gregory Dean said the service will help reduce delayed 911 responses and give D.C. firefighters and paramedics more time for much-needed training.

Third-Party Ambulance Service Begins Next Monday
Source: Andrew Giambrone, Washington City Paper, March 22, 2016

Almost six months after the D.C. Council passed emergency legislation authorizing the District’s Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department to hire a third-party provider, a fleet of 35 ambulances will hit the streets next Monday to help accommodate record 911 demand. … According to Wilson, the AMR EMTs will make about $20 an hour, a little below the average starting salary for an FEMS firefighter/EMT of $23 an hour. … According to an FAQ on them that FEMS published in February, the ambulances will be in service seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. While FEMS will still respond to all 911 calls for “pre-hospital medical care and transportation” and assess patients, AMR will transport low-acuity patients during this “high-call volume” period; FEMS vehicles will transport ALS patients and those who call during low-call volume hours to area hospitals and medical facilities. AMR’s ambulances will be required to arrive at the scene “within 10 minutes of being dispatched,” according to the FAQ.

D.C. Fire/ EMS hoping to release private ambulances by end of month
Source: Sam Ford, WJLA, March 7, 2016

The plan is to have 40 to 50 AMR Basic Life Support ambulances on the streets of D.C. by later this month, to handle non-life threatening transports, so D.C. can focus on more critical transports. They also want to release these AMR’s so the city can have breathing-room to provide additional training its paramedics and EMTs, as well as upgrade its fleet of ambulances. … AMR’s plan is to have 15 to 25 ambulances spaced throughout the city to move in and transport patients quickly once summoned.

Protocols laid out for private ambulance service in DC
Source: Paul Wagner, Fox5, March 9, 2016

FOX 5 has learned the use of private ambulance to transport patients suffering from minor medical emergencies in the District will begin on March 28 and will operate 18 hours a day. FOX 5 has obtained a copy of the general order sent out to all firefighters and paramedics laying out the protocols for what are called third party transport, explaining in detail exactly how officials see the service performing. …

Private ambulance company hired by D.C. to help with emergency calls
Source: Joanne S. Lawton, Washington Business Journal, February 17, 2016

A Colorado ambulance company has been retained by the D.C. fire department to help with delays in responding to emergency calls, The Washington Post reports. American Medical Response, a subsidiary of Greenwood Village, Colorado-based Envision Healthcare, will handle low-priority calls, enabling District emergency personnel to respond to calls involving patients with more serious injuries or illnesses. The company already contracts with D.C. on special events. … American Medical Response won a temporary contract that will begin in 30 days. New bidding for a permanent contract will take place after about a month. The company will bill the District about $95 an hour, with a cap set at $1 million for the first month, with money coming from a D.C. reserve fund.

DC council approves private ambulance services
Source: WUSA, October 6, 2015

The D.C. city council has unanimously passed an emergency legislation allowing the city to hire private ambulance companies. Under the bill, the third party companies would handle low-level transports while D.C. ambulances would be responsible for more serious calls.

At Fire-EMS Hearing, Councilmembers Express Concerns over Mayor’s Emergency Plan
Source: Andrew Giambrone, Washington City Paper, October 2, 2015

If a plan put forth by Mayor Muriel Bowser gains traction, the District could soon enlist third-party ambulance companies to help alleviate the stresses on its overstretched fleet of 39 vehicles. … As written, the emergency legislation would give D.C. first responders the discretion to call private ambulances if they’ve determined that a patient doesn’t require serious treatment; this would purportedly free FEMS vehicles and staff to handle patients in need of lifesaving care. … Dean added that FEMS recently responded to what it considered 234 “low priority” EMS calls on a day when it received 503 total calls; these included “patients complaining of stomach pain, throat pain, and leg cramps, or patients with a foot injury, or pain from a previous injury.” Had private ambulances responded to the day’s low-priority calls, Dean claimed, FEMS could have saved 154 hours, or 32 percent, in the amount of time its units actually spent processing calls. … Through questions and comments, they displayed some skepticism toward how the privatization plan would play out in practice, and introduced concerns regarding its scope, duration, and costs. … She noted that when D.C. has attempted to privatize other public services during the past year, such as food vendors for schools and the H Street­–Benning Road streetcar, it hasn’t saved money, raising “red flags.” Silverman also pressed Dean on the permanency of the initiative and budgeting for costs.