Rural Metro to remain city’s ambulance provider

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Rural Metro has reached an agreement with the city to remain Buffalo’s sole ambulance provider.

It has been the sole provider of ambulance services in the Queen City for the past eight years, but its contract ran out in February. The nation’s largest private ambulance provider and at least one other out-of-town company put in bids hoping to get the contract away from Rural Metro.

Rural Metro made it through a brief strike by its workers last July and is now emerging from Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. Over the last several months, Rural Metro’s response times have been called into question by lawmakers. But the company’s new enhanced plan convinced city official to stay with the provider.

Under the new five-year plan staffing would increase 20 percent, with a focus on hiring people who live in the city. Response times would step up, however a spokesperson for the Rural Metro recently noted that current response times either meet or exceed standards.

Most importantly, there will be additional ambulances during peak times. Up to 20 rigs will be on hand during busy parts of the day with 10 on hand during slow parts of the day, which is up from a minimum of seven ambulances.

Rural Metro will be part of a pilot program and will utilize devices to monitor patients in city ERs with a high a number of cases. The device will allow two people to be able to monitor up to 12 patients high volume times, as opposed to the current 24 crew members waiting with those 12 patients for clearance.

Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield says this will cut down on the number of paramedics left waiting at hospitals.

“We can manage up to 12 patients remotely, with a paramedic, a nurse in a hospital setting, which would allow those paramedic who delivered the patient to get back out on the road,” he said.

“The quicker we can move people through the system back on to the streets, the better it is for the community,” said Jay Smith, Rural Metro’s Executive Director.

As part of the new contract, Rural Metro will have to answer to an EMS board comprised of hospital administration officials and the fire department on a monthly basis. Response times will be a key item in those meetings.

“Obviously we want to enhance the services to residents of the community,” said Whitfield.

The agreement between the city and Rural Metro is expected to be signed next month.

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