Buffalo officials looked at other proposals for ambulance service but have decided to stick with Rural/Metro for at least another five years, Mayor Byron W. Brown said Thursday.
The ambulance provider has come under scrutiny in the Common Council for slow response times.
But Brown said his additional appointments to an existing oversight board would help keep the company’s performance in check. The new appointees come from the medical community.
“We wanted to partner with the hospital systems to not only evaluate the service but to help improve service delivery,” Brown told The Buffalo News.
The six new appointees to the city’s Emergency Medical Services Board will review monthly performance reports provided by the ambulance company, city officials said. Penalties for poor response times will be in place.
Rural/Metro has had an exclusive contract with the city since 2005.
Brown signaled his support for Rural/Metro, and his administration intends to negotiate a contract with the company and then submit it to the Council for approval.
Brown said he would like the new contract to include an increase to the monthly $29,166 franchise fee that Rural/Metro pays the city for the right to provide ambulance service.
Rural/Metro Regional Director Jay Smith said the company is “proud of the service we have been providing and look forward to continuing to enhance EMS in Buffalo.”
Rural/Metro competed against American Medical Response of Greenwood Village, Colo., and Community EMS of Southfield, Mich., to provide ambulance service in the city. The city receives an estimated 30,000 calls for ambulance service a year.
Council members have raised concerns about Rural/Metro’s response times. South Council Member Christopher P. Scanlon wrote a letter to the city’s ambulance board expressing his “unequivocal dissatisfaction” with Rural/Metro.
Scanlon couldn’t be reached Thursday but said in a recent interview that he wanted to make sure the city had a vendor who could perform according to the contract, even if that vendor is Rural/Metro.
The Brown administration Thursday filed a one-month extension to Rural/Metro’s current contract, as well as its intention to negotiate a new contract with the company and the names of the new appointees to the city’s emergency services board.
The new board members are: Michael Hughes, vice president and chief marketing officer at Kaleida Health; Thomas Quatroche Jr., senior vice president of marketing, planning and business development at Erie County Medical Center; Roger Duryea Jr., vice president of planning and regional development at Catholic Health; Carl Thomas, public safety chief at Roswell Park Cancer Institute; Sucharita Paul, clinical associate professor of emergency medicine at the University at Buffalo; and the Rev. James Giles, president of Back to Basics Outreach Ministries.
The new contract, with two one-year extensions, would include an increase in the number of ambulances, from 14 to 20 in peak periods and from seven to 10 in nonpeak times.
The company has also committed to increasing its city workforce by 20 percent, although the company acknowledged the base number of city employees is fluid.
A new contract provision calls for a community paramedic program, which is not yet allowed under state law. The program would allow paramedics to visit patients in their homes to prevent future emergency calls. Another provision calls for alternative transportation to be dispatched to frequent 911 callers.