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DC Private Ambulances Fail To Speed Up Dragging Emergency Responses

(KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Slow response times continue to plague Washington, D.C., emergency services, despite officials spending $9 million on a private ambulance contract.

D.C. officials hired a third-party ambulance service contracted from American Medical Response (AMR) in April to alleviate the burden on the D.C. Fire and EMS Department, which is often criticized for slow response times. Initial AMR data showed the ambulances were only on time 73 percent of the time. The contract mandates a maximum response time of 10 minutes 90 percent of the time, or face fines. District officials have failed to enforce the monetary penalty, reports NBC Washington.

After a review of the response times, officials with AMR revised the statistics, but ambulances were still late 18 percent of the time. (RELATED: Critics Lash Out At DC Fire And EMS: ‘Better Off Calling Uber’ Than 911)

“The number of ambulances on the road at any given time and day fluctuates based upon data and demand analysis,” Erik Rohde, AMR regional director, told NBC4. “As part of our contract approval, DC Fire Executives reviewed and approved our daily schedule and staffing plans which were based on system analysis and financial provisions.”

The year-long, $9 million contract is also intended to help replace the existing fleet of ambulances, which have regular mechanical failures and need constant repair. Officials said they have not enforced fines on AMR over responses yet, because of a marked increase in the number of 911 calls this summer. The contract anticipated a maximum of 165 calls for AMR ambulances a day. They are currently averaging 180.

The increased calls are partly attributed to a massive increase in the amount of overdoses from synthetic marijuana products. D.C. Fire and EMS responded to nearly 600 synthetic marijuana overdoses in July. Officials say the situation would be dire without the added AMR ambulances.

“Just looking at where we were last year, and looking at the number of times that we just had to hold calls, we couldn’t dispatch units, we don’t find ourselves there,” Gregory Dean, chief of D.C. Fire and EMS, told NBC4.

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