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Gallatin County ambulances meet response time goals

By Katherine Mozzone, KTVM Reporter, kmozzone@ktvm.com
Published On: Nov 13 2012 06:31:47 PM MST
Updated On: Nov 13 2012 10:13:33 PM MST
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

American Medical Response is required to meet a response time of eight minutes or less on 90 percent of emergency calls in Billings.
 
But critics say Billings' Fire Chief has granted exemptions to AMR to meet that threshold.
     
They say they've approved at least 314 exemptions from January 2010 through December 2011.
     
Yet the Billings Fire Chief says he's only heard of one complaint about services and AMR is doing everything they can to meet those standards.

We checked with our local American Medical Response team to find out what the required response time is in Gallatin County.

AMR has a contract with the City of Bozeman and Central Valley Fire District, which make up 90 percent of their coverage area.

According to Bozeman's AMR Operations Manager, Art McKiernan, contracts require AMR to respond within eight minutes in the city of Bozeman, 90 percent of the time and within 16 minutes and 59 seconds, 90 percent of the time in the Central Valley Fire District.
     
That requirement only applies to the first call for both contracts and there are exemptions, including weather conditions, disasters and multiple calls at once, also called system overloads.

Aside from AMR's two 24-hour ambulances and one 12-hour ambulance, AMR's special Safety Net Agreements have also provided Bozeman and Central Valley Fire Departments with one ambulance apiece.  

On average AMR responds to 10 calls to 9-1-1 each day, but in the case of a system overload, fire departments can also respond to an emergency.  McKiernan says that happens an average of almost 13 times a month and the Safety Net Agreement definitely helps them meet requirements.
     
We talked with folks at the Bozeman Fire Department who say AMR meets its goals and often exceeds them.

They say they have not granted any exemptions for weather and the special agreement helps with system overloads.  

"AMR does a great job staffing and I think having the medic one as a backup really helps that," says Bozeman Deputy Fire Chief Greg Megaard.

In the past three years, McKiernan says he is not aware of any instances in which they used any exemptions and that they consistently meet compliance requirements.

AMR also started using their 12-hour ambulance every day, starting November 1, and Megaard says that's sure to help as well.

"They're going to run now seven days a week, I believe, starting this month, so that's going to help minimize that number of medic one calls but helps with their response times," says Megaard.
     
Folks with AMR tell us for the month of October, their average response time was six minutes and five seconds for Bozeman calls.