KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Blount Medical Emergency Medical Services Board has agreed to waive some monetary fines issued to their contracted ambulance service for long emergency response times they say were the result of delays at local hospital emergency rooms.

AMR is contractually obligated to respond to an emergency call within 10-15 minutes on 90% of total calls in a month or face a monetary penalty. They can also be fined if the Blount County system reaches a ‘Level 0’, meaning there are no ambulances available to take an emergency call.

Blount County issued $219,500 to AMR for response time violations and 15 ‘Level 0’ incidents in August. Blount County EMS Chair & Director of General Services Don Stallions said the board agreed to reduce the fine to $90,500 and allow three additional minutes to respond to 15-minute calls due to longer wait times at hospital emergency rooms.

AMR had asked all performance penalties be suspended beginning Aug. 1 until the end of Gov. Bill Lee’s Executive Order No. 93 which recognizes a continuing state of emergency due to the COVID-19 variants.

An AMR spokesperson told WATE they were losing 50-125 man-hours a day waiting at ER rooms with some units waiting 3-5 hours. Documents from Blount County EMS show that ER wait times at Blount Memorial Hospital in August 2021 far outpaced wait times in August 2020.

AMR was issued a total of $212,250 in performance penalties for the months of June and July, which have been paid.

“Blount County, like most counties and municipalities across the state, is feeling the effects of a national shortage in healthcare workers at a time when the system has been additionally strained by a national pandemic. We are blessed to have strong partnerships between our hospitals, emergency service providers and County leadership as well as the resources required to meet the EMS needs of our citizens. We are working on solutions to ensure that our citizens continue to receive quality Emergency Medical Services in a timely manner and we are confident that together we will be able to meet the challenges of continuing these services.”

Blount County Director of General Services Don Stallions

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