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Ambulance service questions addressed

With questions arising over American Medical Response’s service in Spokane, residents of Spokane Valley are perhaps wondering how the contract in their fire district differs from that of the city.

Spokane County Fire District No. 1’s Emergency Medical Service Division Chief Randy Olson, Assistant Chief Larry Rider and Fire Chief Mike Thompson answered a few of the questions residents might be pondering.

Q: Is the contract between AMR and Spokane Valley Fire Department the same as the city’s contract with the nation’s largest ambulance company?

A: No. The contract between SVFD and AMR was written in 1997. However, Spokane County Fire District No. 1, which serves Spokane Valley and other nearby communities, plans to renegotiate its contract. The new one will include much of the same language as the one between AMR and Spokane Fire Department.

Q: How will the contract change?

A: The key difference will be to include a penalty for slow responses by AMR. Currently, that language is not included in the contract. Also, Spokane’s contract requires the AMR employees have training in hazardous materials, and that will be included in the Valley’s contract.

Q: Does AMR pay SVFD a fee for providing the exclusive service to the area?

A: No. No money whatsoever exchanges hands between the ambulance provider and the fire district.

Q: Has Spokane Valley fire had problems with AMR’s response times?

A: No. Here’s what the contract states regarding responses in the Valley: AMR shall have sufficient vehicles and equipment to respond code, which means with lights and sirens, to calls received from the fire district’s dispatch agency within a 15 minute time frame, with a 90 percent compliance rate. “The last figures I saw showed that they were fulfilling that,” Olson said. “There have only been a couple of times where we’ve felt the response was too delayed.”

Q: Where do the ambulances for the Valley respond from?

A: AMR has one ambulance each at Spokane Valley Hospital and a station at Broadway and Interstate 90. However, they aren’t dedicated units. If there was a major event downtown, they could be unavailable out here, but any time those ambulances leave the area, other ambulances are supposed to be sent out to replace them.

Q: Is the AMR contract with the Valley for a predetermined amount of time?

A: No. The only time element in the contract is that a 90-day notice is required if either party wants to cancel.

Q: How much do taxpayers pay for fire services in the Valley?

A: Taxpayers pay about $3.17 per $1,000 assessed value of a home for fire services, which include the ambulance services.

Q: When will the AMR contract be renegotiated with the Valley fire district?

A: “The contract negotiations have been put on the back burner,” Olson said. “Right now, we are just sitting back and watching what’s happening with the lawsuit.

“We are trying to get our contract changed to somewhat mirror the city’s contract, but if that will include an exchange of money I don’t know.”