AMR to continue as DeKalb’s ambulance provider in ‘revamped’ contract

DeKalb County will continue to use American Medical Response as its emergency ambulance service provider despite public criticism of the provider’s response times.

After more than one year of working on a contract, DeKalb County Fire Chief Darnell Fullum said the new contract is “revamped” to include an “increase in oversight, more realistic response time expectations, a well-defined penalty section, the ability to create sub-zones, a tiered response system, updated rate structure and expectations for improvement in the system.”

“What this comes down to is in 2013, there was a poorly written contract,” said District 7 DeKalb County Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson. “One of the things that fostered that, I feel, is that there [weren’t] graduated service delivery times in terms of the level of service that was needed.”

The previous contract had a single performance number of eight minutes and 59 seconds response time for at least 90 percent of all calls. 

The updated contract, Fuller explained, entails response time requirements in three groups. Priority 1-3 calls, deemed the most severe emergencies, are expected to have a response time of 11 minutes and 59 seconds or less; Three additional minutes are added to Priority 4 calls; and Priority 5 calls, considered non-emergency, have a response time of 29 minutes and 59 seconds or less.  

District 3 DeKalb County Commissioner Larry Johnson said some DeKalb cities have their own systems for getting calls to county’s 911 system that could affect response times. He added that unpredictable traffic and accidents can also impact response times. 

Fullum responded that no more than 10 percent of response times should be delayed due to traffic or other factors, as part of the new contract.

This year, the county implemented several components to help decrease response times. Ten rapid response vehicles—smaller and less expensive units equipped with fire extinguishing capabilities as well as various emergency response equipment and medical supplies—were added to the county’s fleet this year. Fullum added that 14 percent of DeKalb firefighters are now licensed paramedics and can perform the same services as the ambulance service provider.

The new five-year contract requires AMR to provide an annual update to the Board of Commissioners, whom approved the updated contract Dec. 10.

Bids for the county’s emergency ambulance service were also received from Grady EMS and PatientCare Logistics Solutions after the request for proposals was listed in March.  According to county documents, Grady EMS was deemed non-responsive for failing to withdraw a substitute contract it submitted back to the county. PatientCare Logistics Solutions fell seven points behind AMR in a scoring criterion. PatientCare received 78 points and AMR received 85 points out of a 110-point maximum.

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