While it took years to iron out a regionwide ambulance contract with American Medical Response, it took less than six months for a need to amend it.
Last week, Spokane Valley Fire commissioners agreed to several, mostly minor, changes to the contract that was approved by nearly all Spokane County fire departments and districts last June.
The contract – which sets out response-time guidelines based on location and fixed costs for ambulance transport – needed some changes after some performance-measure language needed clarifying.
“There are some things that need to be revised,” said Mike Thompson, Spokane Valley fire chief, who noted that there other affected jurisdictions will have to sign off on the changes.
The partnership with AMR, one of the nation’s largest ambulance companies, is shared by Spokane Valley Fire; the cities of Airway Heights, Medical Lake and Cheney; and Fire districts 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 13. The city of Spokane has its own contract with AMR and is not part of the Spokane County Ambulance Service Cooperative. However, the city could become a participant after Oct. 31, 2013, when its contract expires. The agreement could then be renewed for another three years.
For the jurisdictions involved, a joint contract makes the ambulance company more accountable for quicker response times and lower rates for those needing service. Fire districts also get response-time guarantees, better billing tracking and potentially lower rates for users.
Fire Commissioner Joe Dawson asked at the Nov. 22 meeting what would happen if a partner did not agree to the amended language. Thompson said that entity would effectively be out of the cooperative partnership.
Under the agreement, those who need an ambulance within the affected jurisdictions pay flat rate of $941 per trip plus $17.57 per mile. Within urban areas, an ambulance must arrive within 10 minutes of a “code” (lights and siren) call and within 20 minutes of a no-code call at least 90 percent of the time quarterly. Under the previous agreement, that time frame had been monthly and included provisions for wilderness areas.
A provision was also added that a performance failure could be waived if the governing board of the partnership agrees that there were mitigating circumstances that prevented the ambulance company from meeting the standards laid out in the contract.
A discounted rate is available for those meeting federal low-income standards. Those provisions are also clarified under the amended contract.
Thompson said AMR has been a willing partner through the entire process and is supportive of the revisions.
“It’s been a very good,” Thompson said. “They really do want to work with us.”