By Christopher P. Scanlon
In the coming months, the City of Buffalo will be approving an emergency ambulance service provider contract. I would like to reiterate my dissatisfaction with the current services being provided by Rural Metro and my concern about the potential of entering into another ambulance service contract without stronger requirements in place to better ensure the health and safety of Buffalo’s residents.
My dissatisfaction with Rural Metro stems from its inadequate response times, specifically several recent incidents in South Buffalo. National standards for ambulance response times are eight minutes for emergency calls, yet numerous documented cases show individuals needing emergency care in the city waiting 13 to 20-plus minutes for a Rural Metro ambulance to arrive. When an individual’s life is in jeopardy, that type of response time is simply unacceptable.
Time and again, when questioned about specific instances of slow response times, Rural Metro points to a “spike in call volume.” If a “spike in call volume” becomes a regular occurrence, it would seem necessary for the company to increase staffing and the number of ambulances in service.
Let me be clear: My concerns are with Rural Metro’s operational procedures in the city, not with the dedicated men and women who serve as EMTs and work day and night to provide the best possible care with the resources they are given.
As the Common Council prepares to review proposals for emergency ambulance service, including from Rural Metro, I will seek to include the following requirements in the new contract:
• The ambulance provider must meet or exceed the national standards for response times.
• The minimum number of paramedic units required to be operational in a 24-hour period must be increased (the current contract requires seven).
• Inadequate staffing by the provider can result in the termination of the contract.
• All union EMTs must be continuously paid a living wage.
In addition to these requirements, I am requesting that a representative from the Common Council be appointed to the Emergency Medical Services Board (ESB) and that the board meet monthly to review the performance of the ambulance service provider.
I would ask that the administration, my colleagues on the Council and the ESB strongly consider these stricter requirements prior to any decision. While I typically believe it is our job as elected officials to do everything in our power to save taxpayer money, when human lives are at stake, it is imperative to take into consideration the quality of services being provided rather than simply the company offering the best price.
Christopher P. Scanlon represents the South District on the Buffalo Common Council.