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Old 11-14-2007, 6:40 PM
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Ambulance service to switch today
Smooth transition from Pridemark to AMR anticipated

By Rachel Carter
Longmont Times-Call

LONGMONT — A different ambulance company will respond to the city’s 911 calls starting at noon today.

The city is switching to its new ambulance provider — American Medical Response, or AMR — after officials decided this summer to pull out of Boulder County’s contract with Pridemark Paramedic Services.

The city hired AMR in mid-September on a two-year contract.

Switching service providers won’t cost the city any money, because both Pridemark and AMR are private companies that bill patients — not the county or city.

Hank McCarthy, EMS coordinator for the Longmont Fire Department, is confident the switch will be smooth.

“We think we’re going to have an exceptional system that will provide exceptional service,” he said.

To prepare, AMR and fire department employees had orientations together last week and will start shift training together today, McCarthy said.

“The folks that work together will train together,” he said. “That’s going to result in better teamwork.”

AMR will have three ambulances based at Longmont fire stations: Fire Station No. 3 on Pace Street, Fire Station No. 4 on 23rd Avenue and Fire Station No. 5 on Barberry Drive.

The company — headquartered in Greenwood Village, a suburb south of Denver — also will bring 18 employees to Longmont, which will provide six paramedics per shift with two on each ambulance, McCarthy said.

The city required AMR to paint its ambulances to look similar to city fire engines and to stock its ambulances with certain types of medical equipment, such as power cots and “stair chairs” to help transport patients up or down stairs.

Because the city will dispatch AMR ambulances, the Longmont Emergency Communications Center has been testing its paging and tone systems, McCarthy said.

Boulder County has contracted with Pridemark since 1999 to provide ambulance service for the county and several cities and towns, including Longmont, Boulder, Lyons and Louisville.

Since then, Pridemark has met its response-time requirements 99 percent of the time, and the county has not had any issues with the company, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said earlier this month.

But Longmont said it had issues with response times and on-scene communication between Pridemark employees and fire department personnel.

City officials began seeking bids from ambulance companies in early August to serve Longmont only, McCarthy said.

Three companies submitted proposals. Pridemark did not.

Mike Donner, chief executive officer of Pridemark, said last month that his agency didn’t bid because clauses in the proposed contract would have given Pridemark less control over its own employees and less control over medical decisions. The new contract also would have been a money loser for Pridemark, he said.

Per the county’s contract, Pridemark must respond to 90 percent of calls within seven minutes and all calls within 11 minutes.

The city’s contract with AMR is similar, except it requires AMR to respond to 98 percent of calls within 11 minutes. However, McCarthy said, the contract now includes fees AMR must pay if it doesn’t meet response times and outlines specific exceptions to response time requirements, such as weather conditions.

McCarthy said the city wanted more local control over the ambulance provider, and “the way to do that is to have control over how the contract is administered,” he said.

“We want a system to be able to hold the service provider accountable for their response times,” McCarthy said. “We believe we have a system in place now for that.”

Jim Smith, a division chief with the sheriff’s office, said the county has no complaints with Pridemark’s performance or response times.

“They’re complying with the contract and meeting expectations,” he said. “We feel very comfortable with the arrangement we have (with Pridemark). Our experience with them has been quite positive.”

Smith said Pridemark will continue to provide ambulance service for Boulder, Hygiene, Lyons and the county.

Rachel Carter can be reached at 303-684-5216 or rcarter@times-call.com.
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