Portland/ Politics & Govt
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Published on February 21, 2024
Multnomah County Chair Clings to Two-Paramedic Ambulance Model Despite Fines, City Council ConcernsSource: AMR Multnomah and Clackamas Counties

Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson is standing her ground against changes to the ambulance staffing model amidst an escalating dispute over slow response times, despite facing pressure from city officials and American Medical Response (AMR), the county's ambulance provider. In a press conference on Tuesday, Vega Pederson unveiled a stringent four-point plan and refused to ease staffing requirements, as reported by KGW. "I won't be bullied into any kind of quick fix," she firmly stated.

This stance is at the crux of a lingering issue that has seen the county fining AMR upwards of $2 million for failing to meet response times since August 2022, a period during which AMR allegedly expanded into Washington County; yet still failing Multnomah County families for almost two years, and the fines might be growing as Vega Pederson threatened an additional $1.6 million in penalties. According to OregonLive, she is calling on AMR to either improve the two-paramedic model or face the financial consequences, refusing to adopt the proposed one-paramedic, one-EMT model that other counties employ.

Resistance to the chair's plan also emerged from within the ranks of the county's leadership. County Commissioner Sharon Meieran, an emergency room physician, openly criticized Vega Pederson, suggesting a more straightforward approach could be implemented swiftly, bypassing the need for a complex plan. "We do not need more process around this question," Meieran argued, reporting gathered by KOIN indicates, showing a rift in the county's unified approach to the crisis.

Meanwhile, AMR has contended that the stringent two-paramedic mandate contributes to their slow response times; blaming a national paramedic shortage for their difficulty in meeting the county's standards, still, Vega Pederson is unwavering in her assertions that AMR can and must do better to serve the public, setting forth demands that the provider either improve hiring and retention practices or subcontract to meet their obligations. On the other side, Portland and Gresham city councils, witnessing the spike in 'Level 0' calls citing no available ambulances, have crafted resolutions urging the county for a staffing model adjustment, valuing their residents' safety above all else, as highlighted in documents referenced by OregonLive.

In a further development, the Northeast Multnomah Community Association echoed these concerns in a letter stressing that elongated wait times are placing undue strain on their healthcare infrastructure, especially in areas farther removed from the central hospitals. As the debates and demands continue unabated, the fate of Multnomah County's emergency medical services hangs in balance, while officials grapple with the heavy prospect of care quality against the crucible of response efficiency in an unsparing realm of public health and safety.