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Washington County plans to change paramedic service providers after Metro West shortfalls

The switch comes as part of an overhaul to the county's EMS system. Public records show ambulance responses have fallen short of county benchmarks.

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Oregon — Washington County is moving to replace its 911 emergency medical transport provider, ditching Metro West Ambulance for American Medical Response, known as AMR.

The change is part of an ongoing effort to overhaul and modernize the county's emergency medical system, but it also comes after public records showed ambulance service wasn't meeting county benchmarks.

The county's EMS alliance of local emergency leaders recommended last year that the county end its existing operating agreement with Metro West and open up a new contract for competitive bidding. A Metro West spokesperson said at the time that the company supported that decision, even if it meant it would have to compete for the next contract.

The county's board of commissioners voted Tuesday to begin negotiations with AMR with an eye toward having the company take over service in the summer, the county announced in a news release

The vote followed a recommendation from a panel that included representatives from local fire departments, hospitals, dispatchers and emergency medical staff, the county said.

AMR already provides ambulance services in Clackamas, Multnomah and Clark counties, according to the news release, and it was the highest-scoring proposal on the county's assessment tool. The other proposal submitters were Metro West and Falck, which serves Salem.

"We congratulate AMR on their competitive proposal. This new franchise agreement will ensure that our community members have access to the highest quality emergency response resources. Our previous agreement was outdated and didn’t allow for the necessary changes to modernize our system to better integrate with our healthcare and emergency partners," Washington County Board Chair Kathryn Harrington said in a statement.

The new agreement will include an improved dispatch system that will allow 911 operators to see where ambulances are located in real time, and it adds new response metrics such as clinical outcomes, rather than just response times.

Metro West issued a statement Tuesday afternoon, indicating that they intend to appeal the decision:

"On behalf of our 380 employees here at Metro West Ambulance, we are disappointed with the Washington County Board of Commissioners decision to begin negotiations with American Medical Response to become the county’s 911 emergency medical transport provider.  We do intend to appeal this decision and feel strongly in our basis of protest.

"We understand that this is one step in the process and there are opportunities to reverse this direction. Out of professional courtesy to the County, we will not discuss the basis of our appeal until the County has been properly notified.

"Metro West Ambulance has been serving the Washington County area for 70 years and will continue to serve the citizens and visitors of Washington County by providing excellent emergency medical care and transport."

Metro West will continue to provide services until the new franchise agreement takes effect at some point this summer, the county said.

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