More than 30 Tacoma-based medics, EMTs to be laid off

SEATTLE -- A medical transportation company is closing its Tacoma dispatch operation, and that means 32 paramedics and EMTs who service Pierce County will soon be out of work.

American Medical Response says its Tacoma facility is losing money. Company officials blame the financial strain on lost job bids, reduced reimbursements and no-pays.

The Tacoma crew, who will be laid off September 15, services all of Pierce County. They have a steady stream of clients, including patients at heatlhcare facilities who rely on them for everything from emergencies to rides to kidney dialysis and even doctor's appointments.

A man named Mike, who has stayed at the Orchard Park Skilled Care Center home, wonders how the layoffs will affect him.

"I wish they would continue to service people down here," he said. "They really need the help and the support."

Orchard Park officials say they call AMR ambulances at least 25 times every week.

Despite the drastic reduction in workers, AMR officials insist service and response times will remain the same. The company will assign medics and EMTs from other counties to hover in Pierce County in areas that have a high concentration of emergency calls.

That idea isn't sitting well with the Teamsters Union representing the laid off workers.

"If they said they are having economic problems down there, it doesn't make sense to actually move people from one operation down there to run calls," said Jeff Clark of Teamsters local 117.

The EMTs and paramedics about to be laid off are prohibited from speaking with the media, but the Teamsters union is stunned. A union representative said last week the workers rejected the company's request to reduce employee hours from 42 to 36 hours a week.

That request came just three weeks after ratifying a new contract.

The union voted against furloughs, and AMR officials say the only option left was to layoff workers. AMR says laid off workers can apply for available jobs in other counties and states.