by Pam Zubeck
American Medical Response might not be running emergency ambulance calls in Colorado Springs for too much longer, so it might be a good time to take a look at how it has served the area for more than a decade under the El Paso County Emergency Services Agency, a multi-jurisdictional group that oversees the AMR contract.
In its "Colorado Springs Community Report," AMR notes the company began serving the local community in 1979 and has contracted through the ESA since 1999. It reports:
AMR’s 250 local caregivers and support staff are proud to provide state-of-the-art medical care and transportation to the citizens of and visitors to El Paso County. We appreciate the confidence shown by the El Paso County Emergency Services Agency in selecting AMR to provide service. AMR Colorado Springs meets the industry “gold standard” by maintaining Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services certification.
The report also talks about its community service and its response time record. This chart goes from the most rural areas covered by the AMR contract, called Frontier, to the most dense (Urban 8), that being Colorado Springs:
And when things got dicey due to the Waldo Canyon Fire last summer, AMR says, it swung into action:
On the evening of June 26th, as the Waldo Canyon fire exploded onto the west side of Colorado Springs, AMR pulled together more than 50 units (AMR units from Denver, Pueblo and Canon City, as well as city busses and other private resources from Colorado Springs and Denver area) to evacuate Mt. St. Francis skilled nursing facility on the west side of town. This facility had 108 residents that were all moved to safety within two-and-a-half hours. As flames approached, this multijurisdictional task force remained in place until all residents and staff were enroute to safety. An AMR Operation Supervisor assumed the transport command role leading two task forces throughout the night assisting three more nursing homes and several assisted care facilities that were in the pre- evacuation areas.
During the week while the fire was most active AMR maintained the multijurisdictional ambulance task force and was also asked to help rehabilitate firefighters and police officers, as well as set up medical triage at the evacuation centers. AMR also maintained extra staff to run the 9-1-1 and non-emergency calls throughout the city and county. Not a single call went without a response; AMR was able to respond to all calls, freeing the Colorado Springs Fire Department to be on modified medical dispatch throughout most of the Waldo Canyon fire, allowing them to focus all resources on the fire.
This is confirmed in the city's Waldo Canyon Fire Final After Action Report, released Wednesday, which states that AMR was asked to take on additional duties the very first day of the fire. "CSFD [Fire Department] District Chiefs conferred and decided to use modified dispatch procedures, diverting several medical calls to American Medical Response (AMR) ntil 0300 the following day [June 24, the second day of the fire]."
Read the entire report here:
But AMR's days in Colorado Springs might be numbered. Mayor Steve Bach has notified the ESA the city will pull out of the regional organization and bid its own contract with an emergency provider. It's unclear if Plan B, turning emergency transport over to firefighters, is still under consideration, because city officials refuse to speak publicly about their plans other than through prepared statements.
Fire Chief Rich Brown's statement to the ESA board:
A Fire Department-based system was rejected several years ago due to the high cost (about $5 million) to capitalize the service, as well as other issues, which we reported here.