HOUSTON - American Medical Response (AMR) dealt with a passenger scuffle in Houston mid-June with one of its subcontractors A&A Transportation. AMR subcontracts many of its non-ambulatory services, such as van transportation to pick up Medicaid patients, and when there’s a complaint, the company has a quick response system ready-to-go.

According to Douglas Moore, AMR’s public relations manager, the company has 32 subcontractors providing around 4,500 Medicaid non-emergency trips daily under AMR’s contract with the Texas Department of Health and Human Services Commission. “Our ratio of complaints received to total trips is less than one-half of 1 percent,” says Moore, adding that while all complaints are researched and investigated many of them are found to be unsupported. If there is reason for concern, he says, immediate action is taken.

Moore says complaints can first be made to the respective health and human services commission (HHSC) of each state. The HHSC then sends a written summary of the complaint to AMR, which then researches the complaint often through inquiry of the subcontractor. AMR then sends a written response to HHSC on the status of the complaint. If the complaint is substantiated, corrective action could mean taking numerous routes:

  1. Counseling/educating the subcontractor or driver in question
  2. Inspecting and correcting vehicle deficiency
  3. Removing vehicle from service
  4. Removing driver from service
  5. Suspending subcontractor from service
  6. Terminating subcontractor

In this recent case, AMR stuck with its protocol and took immediate action. Michelle Bullock, a Medicaid dialysis patient who needs transportation three times a week, sent a complaint to her local TV news station FOX 26 about the lack of air conditioning in her A&A van. According to the station, Bullock said in the few months she had traveled with the subcontractor, there had been no air conditioning at least 10 times.

Moore told Automotive Fleet that AMR did investigate the issue the following day and found that the air conditioning was working properly. Bullock says she thinks this may have just been a doing of the driver. Moore says AMR isn’t quite sure why the patient complained.

Air conditioning is not only a requirement for Medicaid service vehicles, but also AMR, according to Moore. Other requirements are that all systems are functioning properly, including the breaks, lights, heat and tires. Moore says there also needs to be a fire extinguisher, a hazardous material clean-up kit, proper signage on the vehicle and proper driver identification.

“We conduct both routine scheduled and unannounced inspections of subcontractor vehicles to assure that each meets both AMR standards and State of Texas Health and Human Service Commission requirements for safety, cleanliness and identification,” says Dan Cyr, a spokesperson for AMR. The company also does ride-alongs to ensure proper vehicle functioning.

The Texas division of the company employs three transportation network coordinators to monitor and assist in subcontractor compliance. As well, AMR in Texas employs three quality assurance staff members to research and/or respond to complaints immediately, and they also help to ensure the subcontractor compliance.

Moore attributes AMR’s low complaint rates to the company’s subcontracting structure. “This system creates various opportunities to provide the best service to Medicaid clients including a competitive environment within the subcontractor network,” he says.

By Joanne Tucker