DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - Dunwoody city officials say they are done with the problems caused by a local ambulance company.
Channel 2's Wendy Halloran has been investigating American Medical Response transportation service for weeks after they came under scrutiny for response times and a video showing an employee hitting a patient.
The city of Dunwoody is now pleading with the state to allow them to hire their own ambulance company.
City leaders have requested the Georgia Regional EMS Council to open Dunwoody as an EMS zone so that the city can exercise local control over EMS public safety as quickly as possible.
“Our citizens deserve better than what we’re receiving today from DeKalb County and AMR,” City Councilman Terry Nall told Halloran. “Everything about EMS service from Dekalb County to Dunwoody has been stunning.”
Halloran has reported on AMR after an EMT was caught on camera allegedly assaulting a patient, to city records that showed dangerously slow response times in Dunwoody.
“I was disgusted by it,” Dekalb County Fire Chief Darnell Fullum said.
DeKalb County has fined AMR more than $1.5 million for the issues, but the company hasn’t paid the fines.
“That was even more stunning,” Nall told Halloran.
He gives the ambulance service a failing grade.
“In our city it’s clearly an F and it’s not getting any better,” Nall said.
He told Halloran there are two new slow response times to add to the list of issues against the company.
Nall told Halloran that he had a report of one 911 call that took AMR 43 minutes to get to the emergency.
The other complaint came after AMR was a no-show after 40 minutes, according to Nall.
“The police officer gave up and said we’ll transport the patient to a medical facility on our own,” Nall said.
Fullum said part of the problem is the geographical shape of Dunwoody. He claims it makes it difficult to get around.
“When you look at the shape of the county, it does become very narrow,” he told Halloran.
“I got news for you, Chief Fullum, Dekalb County, North Dekalb, the shape of our community has not changed in years,” Nall said.
Fullum said AMR has agreed to increase staffing and add two more ambulances, one at Dunwoody Fire Station 21.
Halloran contacted AMR on Wednesday and the regional director wrote her back, saying:
"We have been working with DeKalb County officials on this plan and thank them for their diligence."
“I believe it is a smokescreen,” Nall said.
Fullum blames the mess on the contract the county has with AMR.
“The issue with this agreement with AMR, it’s due to what is a poorly constructed contract,” Fullum said.
Within 30 days, AMR is also required to contract with a third-party ambulance service to provide additional resources. Plus, AMR will provide daily reports and will attend monthly review meetings with DeKalb County Public Safety leadership.
Fullum also said the county will bring a consultant on board to conduct a feasibility study so the county has a full understanding of what it takes to provide full ambulance service to the county. He says it will take 60 days for that.
Then the county will put out an RFP, so that it can bring on a company that can provide the service to the county.
Fullum said AMR will be free to bid but that new contract will have very distinct performance measures.
Terence Ramotar, regional director for AMR, based in Tampa, Florida, emailed Halloran a statement, saying:
“We have been working with DeKalb County officials on this plan and thank them for their diligence. The new plan will allow us to add ambulances to address some of the issues that were causing response delays, notably the increased traffic in the area and the need for additional units to support the area’s emergency needs. Our immediate focus is to position new units in the new locations, increase staff availability and improve response times. We also appreciate Dunwoody leadership for taking an active role in discussions. With all parties working together, we can ensure we meet the emergency needs of all Dekalb County citizens.”
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