AMR ambulance (copy)

AMR has a five-year contract with seven McLennan County cities, replacing East Texas Medical Center as the area’s EMS provider.

American Medical Services has yet to provide local officials with a report detailing response times to individual calls, but company representatives and the local officials overseeing the EMS provider say they are confident in the services it provides and in improvements efforts underway.

Several emergency responders publicly raised concerns last month with slow AMR response times. The Emergency Medical Services Committee that oversees AMR gave it a Nov. 10 deadline for a report indicating whether it had met contractual requirements for response times in Waco, Bellmead, Beverly Hills, Hewitt, Lacy Lakeview, Robinson, Woodway and unincorporated parts of the county.

“They provided a statement that they were 85.94 percent in their response time compliance,” said Waco Fire Chief Bobby Tatum, who chairs the committee. “To be in compliance, they have to reach a 90 percent response time compliance, but they provided no raw data for that information.”

The committee gave a 90-day grace period starting in August for AMR to formulate local response-time reports after it took over local EMS service from East Texas Medical Center this summer. The statement that 85.94 percent of response times met contractual obligations did not amount to a compliance report since it included no raw data, Tatum said.

AMR officials met with committee members late last week to discuss the continued growing pains. AMR Regional Director Robert Saunders said AMR has increased staffing by 30 percent and is dedicated to smoothing out the transition and coming into compliance by next month.

“AMR has a great deal of experience starting up operations,” Saunders said in a statement. “We’ve fine-tuned the system, staffing levels and units, which we know from our extensive experience would dramatically increase performance. That’s been the case in Waco and we anticipate that will continue.”

Despite the lack of a report, it appears response times are already improving, Tatum said.

“Based on the information from the participating cities, I know they are seeing significant improvement from AMR from the previous month, and that is a good sign that we are moving in a positive direction,” Tatum said. “We still have not received the raw data that AMR is contracted to provide us. That raw data is important so we can have checks and balances, but we are assured from AMR that they will provide it.”

The oversight committee could impose a $500-per-day fine when report deadlines pass, but Tatum said he is confident the committee will receive the reports and that there will be continued improvement in response times next month.

“I do think AMR has a track record in other cities that they have been an exceptional EMS provider, and we have great community support of entities working together to ensure that happens here as well,” Tatum said. “I believe we made the right choice when we selected AMR. I have faith in their leadership.”

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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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