City re-ups $3 million contract with ambulance service after controversy


The Las Cruces City Council voted unanimously to sign a $3 million contract with American Medical Response (AMR) to provide ambulance services in Las Cruces and Doña Ana County.

The contract term is for five years and allows three one-year extensions. AMR, who has operated in Las Cruces for years, will continue providing ambulance services like advanced life support and transportation to area hospitals alongside the Las Cruces Fire Department.

Fire officials explained to the city council during a Feb. 20 meeting that Doña Ana County would also pay for part of the service. Those payments would go through the city. However, the city would be the primary governmental entity overseeing the contract and AMR’s performance.

In March 2020, the city of Las Cruces sought to provide ambulance services to separately from AMR. However, they had to receive approval from the Public Regulation Commission.

At the time, Las Cruces Fire Department officials said they wanted to decrease the time it took to respond to emergency calls.

“It’s a critical issue,” Jason Smith, deputy fire chief at the time, told the Las Cruces Sun-News in 2019. “You want your help to arrive as quickly and safely as they can get there. You want the properly medically trained person to be there so they can start delivering care.”

AMR and Doña Ana County – with whom Las Cruces shared responsibility for paying for ambulance services – then protested Las Cruces’ request. The three parties came to a settlement through the PRC in July 2020.

The settlement compelled Las Cruces and Doña Ana County to enter into a governmental agreement called a Memorandum of Understanding or MOU. The settlement also made the two entities responsible for emergency medical transportation and required them to request a bid for a private entity to provide that service.

AMR – the largest private and for-profit ambulance provider in the U.S. – was the only company meeting the budget’s proposed standards.

Yvonne Flores, councilor for District 6, asked if the clash between AMR and the city of Las Cruces was still relevant.

“That was four years ago in 2020,” Flores said. “But now we’re extending to five years. So, they’ve done a good job?”

Smith, now chief of fire department, clarified that LCFD and AMR would work together. However, Smith added that LCFD would respond to the most critical calls in city limits and just outside the city, while AMR focused more on the greater county and less serious calls.

Smith also pointed out criteria to evaluate AMR’s performance — most requirements centered on response times, something AMR has struggled with in the past.

Joaquin Graham, regional manager of AMR’s parent company, acknowledged that fact when addressing the council. He attributed those issues to staffing shortages but said the new contract with LCFD would help improve those response times and staffing issues.

“This contract is very innovative,” Graham said. “It holds us to different standards and really develops what we were looking for, that of a partnership.”

American Medical Response (AMR), $3 Million Contract