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Fee Hike OK'd for AMR

American Medical Response, the company that provides ambulance service to most of Clark County, has won a 2.4 percent rate increase effective Monday.

The increase means the average patient charge per ambulance call will go from $696.97 to $713.70. AMR also will increase its mileage charge for transporting patients from $10.66 per mile to $10.92.

AMR contracts with the Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency, which operates the county's 911 call center and other emergency and preparedness services. An annual rate change is allowed as part of the company's operating agreement with the agency.

"The amount of the rate increase is based on the consumer price index (inflation rate) over the past 12 months," said Doug Smith-Lee, emergency medical services manager for CRESA.

AMR employs about 120 people in Clark County, 32 in Cowlitz County and another 348 in Portland.

This year, the company is averaging 2,880 ambulance responses in Clark County a month (34,560 a year). Of those, about 2,400 a month result in patient transports.

Contract collapse

Meanwhile, in an abrupt switch this week, the National Emergency Medical Services Association, or NEMSA, which has been representing most of AMR's employees in Clark County and throughout the Portland metro area, said it was walking away from its local membership. The action came after months of negotiations on a new labor contract with AMR. A vote on a contract was to have taken place in August, but such a vote was never announced.

According to those familiar with the situation, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters is now bidding to represent local ambulance workers. Bringing on a new union, however, could take months.

In the interim, AMR is considering an across-the-board raise for its employees who have been working under the old labor contract.

Dave Fuller, AMR general manager for Southwest Washington, said he was not ready to talk about such a raise. And he said AMR would be checking with the National Labor Relations Board on whether union contract regulations would allow such a pay increase.

Pay has been the major issue in this year's contract negotiations with union members.

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