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Las Vegas fire department under fire by American Medical Response

Photos of Las Vegas fire department's ambulances and American Medical Responses (AMR) ambulances  with AMR paramedics.
Photos of Las Vegas fire department's ambulances and American Medical Responses (AMR) ambulances with AMR paramedics.flickr.com/So Cal Metro

Las Vegas fire department paramedics are being accused of cherry picking calls and responding to the more upper class neighborhoods in Vegas. A research firm called Applied Analysis researched the data on emergency response calls in Vegas. Applied Analysis research firm was hired by a private ambulance company. Scott White, the general manager of the private ambulance company AMR (American Medical Response) who hired Applied Analysis said, “I’d suggest the data shows the fire department cherry picking their calls.” The research firm created a map showing Las Vegas fire departments favored areas.

The research data shows the Las Vegas fire department transporting more patients from the wealthier neighborhoods like, Summerlin and other wealthy areas on the west side of Vegas. In doing so private ambulance companies like American Medical Response have to pick up the majority of emergency calls in the lower class neighborhoods.

The research company believes the reason the fire department is doing this, is because when they respond to wealthier areas with higher incomes, there’s a greater chance of a higher rate of insured patients. This means a higher collection rate of emergency medical services.

On March 3rd of this year, Fire Chief Willie McDonald implemented a new hospital transport policy. The policy went from a dual response between the fire department and AMR, to the fire department will take calls first and use AMR only if needed. Under the dual response system the fire department only transported to the hospital 30 percent of the time, while AMR transported 70 percent of the time. Chief McDonalds goal with the new policy is to increase the number of hospital transports the fire department is doing from the before 30 percent to 50 percent at first. Chief McDonald’s overall goal is to have the fire department transporting 75 percent of medical calls. As of today the fire department is transporting about 43 percent.

Since AMR is contracted by the city to transport medical calls, they do not have enough of political pull to stop or fight the new policy from being implemented. AMR currently pays the city of Las Vegas $400,000 per year for their franchise agreement. AMR’s current agreement is due to expire in November of 2015. Scott White said he would like to see the city council do something about the new policy because it is taking away hospital transports from AMR.

The new Las Vegas fire department policy change was brought about when a 2012 report recommended the city should either increase its revenue in more hospital transports or leave the transports to private companies’ altogether to save on tax money. Chief McDonald had this plan to increase hospital transports within the fire department when he became Chief in August of 2013. Since the new policy came out, all the city can do is wait to see if the fire department will be able to handle the 75 percent transport rate they want to achieve or implement more transport calls back to AMR.

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