Nev. county awards ambulance service more territory in review of response times
Clark County officials changed the map and awarded Community Ambulance territory from its competitors based on response time benchmarks
By Ricardo Torres-Cortez
Las Vegas Review-Journal
CLARK COUNTY, Nev. — Clark County awarded a private ambulance company additional territory from its competitors with the goal of improving late response times for high-priority 911 calls.
Under a “corrective action plan” for MedicWest and AMR — approved last month by county commissioners — Community Ambulance will see its coverage area grow by 13 percent beginning Thursday, according to the company.
MedicWest and AMR, both owned by Colorado-based Global Medical Response, have consistently failed to meet a benchmark, as shown by their ambulance response times, according to the county.
The county’s current contracts, which expire in 2026, require ambulances to arrive to each medical emergency in under 12 minutes at least 90 percent of the time on a monthly average.
Community Ambulance said the latest change will give it an additional 4 square miles within Tropicana and Sahara Avenues in the east valley, bringing the Las Vegas-based company’s total coverage to 65 percent.
“The more action we’ve taken, it appears like the worse they’ve performed,” said Commissioner Michael Naft before the corrective action plan was approved.
This will be the third time the map is redrawn to address ambulance tardiness since early 2022.
“We’re looking forward to make the change,” Clark County Deputy Fire Chief Jennifer Wyatt told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Monday.
The corrective plan allows the Clark County Fire Department, which oversees the contracts, to amend the coverage map with a 30-day notice without needing a commission vote for the change.
When an ambulance is delayed, the Fire Department takes over hospital transports, a costly action that depletes day-to-day resources, officials have said.
Track record has spoken
Community Ambulance has maintained an on-time rate of 96 percent despite seeing its coverage area grow from 15 percent, and eventually to 52 percent in January, when it was granted 911 calls on the Strip.
Meanwhile, MedicWest and AMR have continued struggling to reach the benchmark, failing to do so through the first four months of 2023 despite seeing its coverage area dwindle.
A zone covered by AMR, for example, saw ambulances arrive on time 70.53 percent of the calls in April, according to county figures.
“We were fully prepared to take on that additional territory,” Glen Simpson, senior director for Community Ambulance, told the Review-Journal. “Our track record has certainly spoken.”
Community Ambulance staffs about 700 employees with further growth expected, Simpson said. After pandemic-related delays, its current fleet of 73 ambulances will grow by 13 in the next couple of months, he added.
“We’re not perfect by any means,” said Simpson, noting that it’s been challenging to accommodate a significant growth in a short period of time.
Still, he said, company officials owe success to transparency and workplace “culture” in which they “listen” to employees before making changes.
“If you give your employees proper tools, they will excel,” he said.
‘Eager to see’ what changes do
MedicWest and AMR have contended that ongoing staffing shortages on their end are part of a national crisis only worsened by the pandemic and recruitment of medics from its ranks by local fire departments.
“We’re eager to see what these changes do for us,” MedicWest and AMR spokesperson Damon Schilling told the Review-Journal on Monday.
He said the company is preparing to rollout its new deployment plan, and it continues to work on its “recovery phase” of hiring more personnel.
The corrective plan was a collaborative effort by fire department officials working with leadership from the three ambulance companies, who meet regularly.
Under the plan, MedicWest and AMR have to provide weekly staffing reports the fire department uses to determine if the companies require “mutual aid assistance,” the county said.
The plan also clarifies a policy on when an ambulance is considered arrived on-scene, and allows the companies to self-release quicker from scenes that have a police hold, the county said.
Schilling said the companies welcome the changes’ fluidity and regular evaluations.
“We would definitely love to regain some of the (coverage) area,” Schilling said. “At this point, we’re looking to work with what we have.”