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Portland ambulance delays highlighted in hit-and-run death

AMR was at “level zero” while firefighters were treating the victim for nearly 30 minutes



By Bill Carey
EMS1 Staff

PORTLAND, Ore. — It took nearly 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive for a man in a wheelchair, struck by a hit-and-run driver on April 28. His death highlights several “level zero” calls and the demand on AMR.

The man died at the scene, although he was still alive when firefighters arrived. Those firefighters had to wait an agonizingly long time for an ambulance to transport him to the hospital, KGW8 reported.

“Without a doubt, if you have an ambulance on that call when the call comes in, you at least give that person the benefit of the doubt,” said Isaac McLennan, president of the Portland Fire Fighters’ Association. “You at least give that person the ability to have a chance to live.”

Records show AMR was operating at “level zero” — a code that signifies there are no ambulances available to respond to an emergency 911 call. Dispatchers repeatedly told Portland fire crews that AMR was at level zero at the time of the hit-and-run.

Multnomah County contracts with AMR for ambulance services and expects AMR to arrive at 90% of emergency calls within eight minutes in most cases. In 2022, AMR failed to meet county standards for emergency response. From September 2022 to February 2023, approximately one out of every three ambulance crews missed this mark.

KGW8 spoke with Multnomah County EMS Medical Director Dr. John Jui in March. Dr. Jui said late-arriving ambulances had not affected medical outcomes for people in need of emergency care.

“We have not seen any significant clinical degradation,” Jui said. “We’ve been quote-unquote, knock on wood lucky and this is a situation we’re trying to remedy right here as well.”

AMR, through parent company Global Medical Response, shared a statement in response to KGW’s questions about the incident:

“We have received reports regarding the response time of one of our ambulances on April 28, 2023. At this time, this incident is still being reviewed by AMR, Multnomah County EMS and the Bureau of Emergency Communications so that we may better understand what occurred. The safety of our patients is always our top priority. American Medical Response is committed to responding to all calls in a timely manner.”