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An American Medical Response employee returns to his ambulance earlier this week. AMR reached 91 percent compliance on response times, within its contractual obligation, after missing targets since taking over local EMS duties this summer.

After a rocky start in its first two months, American Medical Response ambulances reached full compliance in November for appropriate response times in Waco and surrounding communities.

AMR officials met in the past week with members of the Emergency Medical Services Committee that oversees contractual requirements for Waco, Bellmead, Beverly Hills, Hewitt, Lacy Lakeview, Robinson, Woodway and unincorporated parts of the county. In the meeting, AMR Regional Director Robert Saunders said AMR has improved response time compliance and there are more available ambulances in the area to respond to emergency and transfer needs.

“With AMR being a large EMS company and having a history of coming into cities and doing a good job with a good turnaround, currently there are more ambulances on the streets in Waco and the cities in the county than there have ever been,” Saunders said. “We are supposed to be at a 90 percent compliance for the seven cities and we were at a 91.2 percent compliance, so it was a lot better.”

In August, AMR took over emergency medical services and transport services from ETMC/Paramedics Plus, which had served the area since 2003. Committee members voiced dissatisfaction in October for delayed response times and lack of available ambulances in many of the cities, prompting committee members to begin meeting monthly with AMR to ensure better EMS services.

“As far as I know, everyone seems happy,” Saunders said. “There is at least one representative from every single city in our meetings and everyone last meeting was extremely happy. We knew it was going to take some time, but when we put local dispatch in town, it is now up and running completely, we are fully staffed and it is going very smooth also.”

In a November compliance report, AMR reported response times were at nearly 86 percent, but the company did provide raw data to back up that figure, said Waco Fire Chief Bobby Tatum, who serves as chair of the Emergency Medical Services Committee said.

Local emergency responders had filed about 54 notices of dissatisfaction with AMR between Aug. 21 and Oct. 27, but Tatum said all committee members have seen a vast improvement. Depending on the day, 12 to 13 ambulances are on the streets during the day and six at night, marking a 30 percent increase since Aug. 1.

Ambulance response times in the cities are mandated to be less than nine minutes about 90 percent of the time for priority 1 calls, where immediate response is needed. For less dire priority 2 calls, an ambulance must arrive in less than 13 minutes about 90 percent of the time, according to AMR’s contract.

“We had some initial challenges in August,” Tatum said. “However in the past two months, their response times have improved. We’ve also implemented some methods to communicate with AMR to let them know of issues so they can address them before it gets to a concern.”

In the last month, no concerns were brought forward to the committee, Tatum said. Saunders said even during the two months of concerns, no patients were neglected or forgotten and all issues have been resolved.

“Since there are so many more trucks on the streets, I think we will continue to see greatly improved times,” Saunders said.

Kristin Hoppa has been covering public safety and breaking news for the Tribune-Herald since January 2016. She worked in Northwest Missouri covering crime-related issues before her move to Central Texas. She is a University of Kansas graduate.

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