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Buffalo ambulance response times improve, near contract mandates

Rural Metro

If you need an ambulance in Buffalo, your help may arrive a little faster than previously. The city's ambulance provider, American Medical Response, says it has tuned up its operations in the city to the point it has knocked two minutes off response time.

A year ago, response time was bad.

"Within the contract that we entered into with AMR, they're responsible for providing responses within every category within the 90th percentile," says Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield. "That was not being met before. We were in the 70s in some cases and in some cases even might have dipped into the 60s or whatever."

That was under the old Rural/Metro. Now, both sides say that response time is contract requirements.

"What we're saying now is that the response times in every category is moving in that 90 percentile," says Whitfield.

Regional Director Thomas Maxian says the improvement in response time has cost dollars.

"We've hired more than 100 medical professionals into the community, infusing them largely into the City of Buffalo and into our other operations as well," Maxian says. "We've added more vehicles to our fleet. We've added 20 new vehicles, probably, in the last six months or so and we have increased the number of hours that we have ambulances out on the road. So we've advanced our coverage."

He says his staffers also have been given more responsibility to make it all work. Now, Maxian says, AMR and the city are moving into high-tech to speed up calls.

"In partnership with the city and the county, we're going to be introducing a data communications link between Buffalo ambulance dispatch and American Medical Response ambulance dispatch," Maxiam says. "The link will replace an antiquated dispatch procedure and allow us to streamline the two-way communication delivery of information, eliminate unnecessary data input duplication and eliminate the stacking and queuing of calls."

Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield says the new systems mean fewer fire fighters are tied up at emergency scenes while waiting for an ambulance. They are now able to get back to fire fighting.

Mayor Brown says the city also is working with hospitals to ease effects of emergency personnel tied up there waiting for patient care.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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