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Controversy returns in selection of Wash. county’s ambulance service

Advance Life Systems is protesting the Yakima County commissioners’ selection of AMR

AMRportlandOR.jpg

Photo/AMR Multnomah and Clackamas Counties

By Phil Ferolito
Yakima Herald-Republic

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. — Controversy persists over Yakima County’s selection of American Medical Response as its exclusive 911 ambulance responder.

In December, Yakima County commissioners selected AMR over local ambulance provider Advance Life Systems, the only other applicant. ALS protested the selection.

During Tuesday’s regular business meeting, commissioners heard complaints from ALS about how the applicants were evaluated and scored.

ALS’s attorney, Jamie Carmody, said he filed a public disclosure seeking that information but was told by Yakima County staff that it didn’t exist.

Carmody also said Commissioner LaDon Linde requested the same information without obtaining it. Linde didn’t address the matter.

“We simply don’t know what happened there — the evaluation and scoring process,” Carmody told commissioners.

The intention of having an exclusive 911 ambulance responder was to assure an ambulance was available at all times. There had been times when 911 calls competed with other calls, such as transporting patients from one medical facility to another.

Carmody suggests the county contract with both companies for 911 ambulance services by creating districts and a mutual aid response system similar to what the numerous fire departments use across the Yakima Valley.

Commissioner Kyle Curtis wanted to make a decision on ALS’s protest at the meeting, but McKinney and Linde said they wanted more time.

Curtis — who was not on the commission when ALS was selected in December — said commissioners have had ALS’s protest for five months.

“And we’ve had adequate time to review the material,” he said.

Curtis’s motion to deliberate on the matter failed to garner a second.

Commissioners expect to discuss the matter during the closed session before reviewing it in public at this Tuesday’s regular business meeting.

This isn’t the first time the commissioners’ selection of AMR has come under fire.

Commissioners selected AMR last year, but the contract was scrapped after questions arose about the request for proposal process and how AMR received perfect marks despite its past problems in other communities.

To remedy those concerns, the county contracted with the city of Yakima’s purchasing department, which contracted with McGrath Consulting based in Jamestown, Tenn., to devise a second RFP.

McGrath Consulting scored the applicants and recommended AMR, which received a score of 90.8 out of 100. ALS, which submitted two proposals, received scores of 81.5 and 55.

Carmody said information about how McGrath arrived at those scores wasn’t made available.

“No scoring documents, no evaluations — you’ve got nothing,” Carmody told commissioners.

Carmody again pointed to contract problems AMR has had in other communities as well as a discrimination lawsuit it settled for $165,000 in Spokane.

Most recently, AMR ended services in Grant County, citing rising costs and low reimbursements from insurers like Medicaid.

AMR decided to end services after Grant County rejected its request for $350,000 in annual subsidies.

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