DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — An ambulance company heard more complaints on Thursday during a special meeting called by a city that wants to be able to dump the private company but can't because it has a contract with the county.
American Medical Response is facing scrutiny for not responding to emergency calls in eight minutes and 59 seconds as required by its contract with DeKalb County. Dunwoody city leaders who spoke inside the chamber on Thursday say it's a recipe for disaster.
One by one, Dunwoody city leaders laid out their case against AMR before the Region 3 Emergency Medical Services Council.
“This excessive response time of AMR is unacceptable and putting lives at risk," said Police Chief Billy Grogan, of the Dunwoody Police Department.
AMR has also been a no-show.
Grogan’s officers were forced to transport a delusional man in need of psychiatric care to the emergency room in the back of a police SUV.
"The firemen were saying, 'Where is that ambulance? She needs to be at the hospital now we’ve done all we can do.' That response time was reported as 30 minutes. And the dear woman died at the hospital,” said Dunwoody City Councilman Terry Nall.
And that’s not all.
“Young parents of an 18-month old child having multiple severe seizures who waited and waited and waited for an ambulance," Nall said.
“We’ve also met with the Regional Director of AMR and yet as you have heard the problem has persisted," said Mayor Denis Shortal with the city of Dunwoody.
Dunwoody City Manager Eric Linton said DeKalb leadership has done nothing to address these concerns.
Dekalb County Fire Chief Darnell Fullum addressed EMS Region 3 Council members and acknowledged that a fresh look is needed. He called it a "flawed contract" between Dekalb County and AMR that was struck in 2013. Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan said the transport rate for AMR at that time was set at $800. He compared transport rates with neighboring counties which he said are $1,200. What's more, Dekalb County charges AMR $750,000 to use its 911 dispatch system. Dunwoody Councilman Terry Nall said it was a "doomed" contract to begin with.
AMR Regional Director Terence Ramotar told Channel 2's Wendy Halloran, "We all understand the contract was designed 5 to 6 years ago, we all admit everyone including Dunwoody, Dunwoody Chief, ourselves the contract is flawed and we are trying to make changes around the system."
Ramotar then in defending his company added this, "We don’t think it’s an ambulance company problem, we deeply believe, all believe this is a system problem and as you’ve heard this problem existed before AMR’s contract."
Dunwoody resident John Pleck was here hoping to see change.
“We need help on the ambulance service," Pleck said.
It appeared Dunwoody was on the verge of getting what it wanted right now to break away from DeKalb County’s ambulance service and hire their own company.
Instead, the EMS Region 3 Council unanimously voted to allow Dunwoody to lay out what its ambulance service would look like.
Ramotar spoke with Halloran afterward who asked how would he defend the company's record.
“Look, this is a local issue. We operate in 42 states, the nation’s largest ambulance provider, look us up, we do a number of phenomenal things all around the country. Um, this just to remind everybody this is an isolated issue specific to DeKalb County,“ Ramotar said.
Halloran asked Ramotar if the comments were scathing and he said quote, "As far as the negative comments against the company itself, look you know we do a great job.”
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