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Colorado Springs to stay with ambulance provider after it breaks contract


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- The city of Colorado Springs will continue its contract with American Medical Response, despite the ambulance provider not meeting the city’s contractual requirements.

Throughout 2022, American Medical Response (AMR) arrived late to life-threatening calls, requiring the company to pay millions in damages to the city.

According to the contract between AMR and the city, the ambulance provider must arrive within a certain timeframe depending on what zone the call is from and the call’s priority. For life-threatening calls, or Code 3, ambulances must arrive within eight minutes in the urban zone, 12 minutes in the suburban zone, and 16 minutes in the rural zone.

The contract states AMR must arrive within those time frames 90% of the time.

13 Investigates obtained data that shows AMR arrived late to Code 3 calls throughout 2022.

The city’s contract with AMR went into effect in April 2020. Since the start of the contract, AMR met the city’s response time threshold each month until the end of 2021. That’s when the arrival time started to suffer.

In December 2021, AMR didn’t meet the city’s response-time requirements for the first time during its contract. And it only got worse in 2022. Last January, ambulances were late to about 19% of all emergency calls.

Since AMR was breaking the city’s contract, it placed the ambulance provider on a cure period to allow it more time to make improvements before taking any contractual actions.

“We noticed that they were making improvements and we allowed them a little bit more time to make those improvements in their staffing and to recover from COVID,” said Jim Webber, the senior contract specialist with the Colorado Springs Fire Department.

The cure period requirements were that AMR had to bring up their on-time performance to 90% in every zone and not exceed $20,000 in liquidated damages per month.

Despite improvements in response times, AMR still failed to reach the city's threshold. Most recently in December, the ambulance provider was on time to 86% of Code 3 calls. Because of those late arrivals, AMR had to pay more than $3.4 million in damages, exceeding the contractual agreement of $20,000 in every month.

However, the fire department stated it is going to continue to work with AMR and evaluate their performance month-to-month.

“They are improving in more ways,” Webber said. “The on-time performance has been improving month over month, and so is that reduction of liquidated damages.”

AMR could not be reached for comment despite multiple attempts.

"There has been no documented detriment to the patients," Webber said. "Yes, there's still late to calls and those are things that we're going to be working on with AMR."

AMR's contract is not a council decision. Before the new contract went into effect in 2020, the council was briefed about it. But the authority to approve or end the contract is up to the Colorado Springs Fire Department and the city's procurement department.

However, City Council President Tom Strand said the city should look over its contract with AMR and consider relying more on the fire department for medical calls.

The fire department is already taking on more responsibility. It recently implemented a tiered response system with its own medical teams helping with non-emergency calls.

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Quinn Ritzdorf

Quinn is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.


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