January 13, 2011 in City

Rural/Metro could present some competition for AMR

By The Spokesman-Review

Rural/Metro ambulance EMT Tim Puntillo backs into a Spokane Valley parking spot as paramedic Dan Washburn guides him. Rural/Metro is a national company and officially started business at 6 a.m. this morning.
(Full-size photo)

The companies

Rural/Metro is headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz. It was started 50 years ago and today is traded publically on the NASDAQ.

AMR, based in Greenwood Village, Colo., operates in 28 states. It was formed 18 years ago through the merger of several regional ambulance companies. It has since grown with other mergers into the nation’s largest ambulance company.

An ambulance company with operations in 28 states has moved into Spokane.

Rural/Metro Corp. has hired 30 people to staff two ambulances. Although the company does not yet have any contracts, local company officials expect to quickly find business.

The development could signal future competition with American Medical Response, the emergency ambulance provider for Spokane and Spokane County.

Chris Cato, operations manager for Rural/Metro’s new Spokane effort, said the company will move aggressively to secure business such as transporting residents from nursing homes to hospitals, staffing events that need ambulance services, and transferring patients between health care providers.

“We intend to make a great showing in this market, and people will find us cost effective,” he said.

AMR’s contract with Spokane expires in 2013. Cato declined to say if Rural/Metro intends to try and wrest control of local ambulance service. Rural/Metro did express interest in submitting a bid in 2008, but never followed through, and AMR was ultimately awarded the Spokane contract, said Fire Chief Bobby Williams.

The city and AMR have had a rocky relationship. Last month AMR agreed to pay back $994,000 plus interest to settle a lawsuit alleging that it overbilled more than 12,000 Spokane residents during a six-year span.

AMR has changed billing procedures to prevent future overcharges, company representatives have said.

AMR has had an exclusive contract since 1999 to provide ambulance service in the city of Spokane.

Williams said Spokane has an emergency ambulance call volume of about 15,000 a year. That’s a high number requiring ambulance service that is reputable, well-run, established and efficient, he said.

Rural/Metro and AMR compete for ambulance business across the country.

AMR, for example, has the contract for Seattle. Rural/Metro runs in Tacoma.

Rural/Metro will attempt to gain a toehold by having one ambulance dedicated to Spokane and one stationed in Spokane Valley, Cato said.

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