Rural Metro’s new director promises faster ambulance responses in Buffalo

Buffalo native Thomas Maxian returns home to head up Rural Metro

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Tom Maxian has been on the job less than two weeks and already he’s making big changes at Rural Metro.  In his first public interview, Maxian says his company needs to put its exclusive contract with Buffalo first

“We made promises to the community and we are absolutely going to live up to them,” said Maxian, regional director of American Medical Response, Rural Metro’s parent company.

Maxian is a Buffalo native who has worked in three other states for AMR.

Brought here in a management shakeup, Maxian quickly saw that his company’s Buffalo contract was in trouble.

“If we are unable to respond to a call in the City of Buffalo that tarnishes the company’s reputation and that hurts the reputation of every one of our caregivers in the field,” he said.

Ambulance response times are longer than the company promised and there’s noise in city hall about fining the company.

Maxian said one solution is to stop responding to non-emergency transports in towns where Rural Metro does not have a contract.

“We’re not going to take a resource away from the City of Buffalo, Cheektowaga, Town of Hamburg to go answer a call in some place like Ransomville or the Town of Amherst or the Town of Clarence.”

He said that information is being shared with nursing homes, hospitals or any other agency that may need non-emergency patient transfers.

If there is an emergency Maxian said Rural Metro would respond under the county’s mutual aid system.

News 4 investigates recently revealed that Rural Metro was failing to meet response times under its five year contract with Buffalo.

The most recent response times for May presented Thursday to the city’s Emergency Medical Board show that Rural Metro continues to meet the its contract with the city for basic life support but not for the more serious calls.

In May 96 percent of basic life support calls were responded to within the required time mark of less than 15 minutes.

Advanced life support came in at 81.9 percent at less than 10 minutes. The contract requires 90 percent.

Advanced life support life threatening came in at 78.8 percent. The contract requires at least 90 percent at less than nine minutes.

“We are not quarrelling with that particular issue at all. We know that the advanced life support and life threatening are the calls that we have not passed mustard on,” said Maxian.

As of Tuesday, he said those call categories were up to 87 percent compliance.

Maxian says technology improvements will also help.

He’s proposing that Erie County and the city agree to the upgrading of the ambulance dispatch system so that 911 call information moves electronically from county dispatchers to rural metro computer screens. Right now, that information is transmitted by radio calls

“What that enables us to do is to send information electronically directly from dispatch to our ambulance and information from the ambulance back to dispatch,” said Maxian.

Maxian also wants Erie County dispatchers to use screen technology that tracks ambulances

“We want the ADI (Erie County ambulance dispatch) dispatchers to see where our cars are,” he said.

Maxian says the software will soon be in all 75 ambulances in the region.

Response times in Buffalo depend on how many ambulances are on the street.  The contract calls for 20 ambulances at peak times.

But Rural Metro defines peak times monthly based on past demand

Maxian could not tell News 4 how often since signing the new contract last November that it has had 20 ambulances on the streets in Buffalo

“In the last two weeks since we really started focusing on our core clients we’ve probably had 20 on the street for 7-8 days in a row.”

It’s unclear whether Maxian’s moves will impress city officials.

He attended Thursday’s meeting of the city’s emergency medical board where he said response times continue to improve. The board which is headed by Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield is deciding whether to fine the company for not meeting its contract with the city.

Whitfield declined, however, to answer any questions about Maxian’s proposals.
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