November 21, 2023 - 6:00 am
Updated November 21, 2023 - 7:12 pm
Two private ambulance companies that operate within the city of Las Vegas will continue to do so after they received contract extensions this month.
The franchise agreements between the city and MedicWest and American Medical Response were set to expire next month.
The City Council unanimously approved MedicWest’s two-year extension on Nov. 1, and AMR’s one-year addendum Wednesday.
Both companies respond to an average of 74,000 yearly emergency calls, according to their parent company, Colorado-based Global Medical Response.
While Southern Nevada fire departments have access to their own ambulances, they rely on private companies to keep up with the workload.
“At the end of the day, we need to have a franchise agreement,” Las Vegas Fire Chief Fernando Gray told the council during Wednesday’s meeting in which AMR’s extension was discussed.
No ‘stable outlook’
The addendum for MedicWest was voted on as part of a consent agenda, a list of items that are voted on at once, but not discussed publicly.
The extension proposal for AMR was cut from two years to one during a City Council discussion.
“There’s no losing if we were to shorten that window to a year,” Councilwoman Olivia Diaz said. “I do feel we have been through several (fire) chiefs, but we haven’t had a stable outlook.”
Councilman Brian Knudsen, who first proposed the shorter extension, said he would like to see “lots and lots of data over the next year” to continue assessing AMR’s franchise agreement.
The companies have struggled to meet contractual benchmarks set in Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Clark County.
One of the contract requirements, for the most pressing emergencies, requires ambulances to arrive at the scene of a 911 call within 12 minutes, 90 percent of the time a month, on average.
To mitigate the tardiness, Clark County has redrawn coverage maps, giving some of MedicWest and AMR’s calls — including 911 calls on the Strip — to a third company, Community Ambulance, which has been consistent with meeting the on-time benchmarks.
Earlier this year, the city of North Las Vegas extended its contract of MedicWest — its sole provider — until 2026, while also taking over its dispatch duties.
Expecting top-quality service
In 2022, AMR failed to meet the 90 percent threshold every month in the city of Las Vegas.
MedicWest only missed the benchmark one month, and Community Ambulance exceeded the minimum requirement all year, according to city data.
The city did not immediately provide data for 2023, including response times and accrued fees for not meeting them.
While they’re still not meeting the threshold, the last four months for AMR have been promising, Gray said.
The upward trend coincides with a change in management at AMR and MedicWest, and the fire chief told the council that he predicts improvements to continue.
Kirk Schmitt, the new regional director of operations for MedicWest and AMR, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal Monday that he was “very excited for the progress,” and that he is confident changes in recruitment will help alleviate the issues.
The companies, and lawmakers, have noted that the pandemic and workforce changes threw a wrench in recruiting and retention of EMTs and paramedics across the U.S.
“People who voted us in expect top-quality service,” Councilwoman Francis Allen-Palenske said. “They demand it, and we all want them to have that, and we will move forward in that vein.”