AMR’s $2 Million Fine Has Yet to Materialize

Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson promised to “move to collect” the fine last month if the county’s ambulance contractor didn’t address its staffing issues.

RUNNING LATE: An AMR ambulance on Northeast 82nd Avenue. (Brian Burk)

The $2 million fine that Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson promised to levy against the county’s beleaguered ambulance contractor has yet to materialize.

Ambulance response times have surged in recent years as that contractor, American Medical Response, struggles to hire and retain enough paramedics and the county threatened to levy millions of dollars in fines if AMR didn’t find a way to reverse the trend.

In February, Pederson said the county was prepared to “move to collect those fines next month if AMR doesn’t show a clear plan of action” to address its staffing challenges.

This afternoon, WW asked the county whether it had levied the fine. It responded soon after by issuing a press release saying it had held a productive full-day mediation session with AMR two weeks earlier, on March 15.

“Both parties are working collaboratively with the common goal of serving Multnomah County with the highest level of care possible,” the release says.

The release makes no mention of the $2 million fine—or any “clear plan of action.”

“To build on that positive momentum, a second mediation session is planned for this month. More information will be available in the coming weeks,” the release says.

AMR says it has a solution to fix the crisis: staffing its ambulances with a paramedic and a lesser-trained emergency medical technician, rather than two paramedics. While AMR says such a change would free up more ambulances, the county says it would result in negative health outcomes.

Still, the county is assessing the idea. And AMR management is optimistic the county will cave under pressure from local officials fed up with ambulance delays, Austin DePaolo, the business representative for the parademics’ union, tells WW. (”We’re making progress,” AMR regional director Randy Lauer says regarding the negotiations.)

The union prefers the two-paramedic system, but DePaulo says he understands the appeal of a “simple” solution. “We’re frustrated, but we get it,” he says.

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