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|AMR takes another step forward in ambulance provider dispute|
American Medical Response has agreed to the contract that makes it the sole ambulance provider in the parish, according to assistant 4th Judicial District Attorney Jay Mitchell.
Mitchell also serves as attorney for Ouachita Council of Governments. OCOG in May 2007 selected AMR to serve as the parish's sole ambulance provider. However, a contract was not finalized since nine rural ambulance providers filed a lawsuit to stop the contract from becoming effective.
After several appeals, the plaintiffs asked the Louisiana Supreme Court to hear the case. The state Supreme Court denied the appeal in October, which represented the end to litigation, Mitchell said.
Once AMR officially signs the sole ambulance provider contract, it will be presented to the cities of Monroe and West Monroe as well as the Ouachita Parish Police Jury for approval.
The process to select a sole ambulance provider for Ouachita Parish has taken roughly two years to complete. Litigation has stalled the process for more than a year.
Part of the intent in selecting a sole ambulance provider was to improve response times within the parish.
The American Ambulance Association recommends a response time of eight minutes, 59 seconds for emergency calls. Certain areas of the parish will have longer response time guidelines since the areas are further from ambulance services.
For life-threatening emergencies, AMR will have to respond by seven minutes in the urban zone, which includes the cities of Monroe and West Monroe. AMR will be required to respond by 11 minutes in the suburban zone, which includes the areas three miles outside the corporate limits of both cities. For rural areas, which is all other areas located in Ouachita Parish, AMR will be required to respond by 17 minutes for life-threatening emergencies.
For non-life-threatening emergencies AMR will need to respond by 15 minutes in the urban zone, 20 minutes in the suburban zone and 30 minutes in the rural areas.
AMR must meet the response time criteria at least 90 percent of the time.
If AMR has a history of not meeting the response time criteria, it could lose its exclusive license, Mitchell said.
"In exchange for that exclusive license, they will be held to a higher level of service," Mitchell explained. "In order to meet this criteria, they will have to have more ambulances on the road.
"In the past, governments never had an effective way to hold ambulance companies' feet to the fire regarding response times. Now there is a mechanism in place to hold them to what they promised."
The new ambulance ordinance calling for a sole ambulance provider in Ouachita - which was passed by the cities of Monroe and West Monroe and the police jury - also created the Ouachita Parish Ambulance Service Advisory Board. It will assist and advise local government with regulation issues.
AMR will report to the advisory board, which will ensure the ambulance provider meets the criteria established by the ordinance. The advisory board also will hear complaints from residents concerning ambulance service.
Members of the advisory board will be appointed by the cities of Monroe and West Monroe as well as the police jury, OCOG and Ouachita Parish Medical Society.