Ambulance company planning expansion


American Medical Response is entering 2020 with plans to strengthen its presence in the region.

The medical transportation company plans to purchase an additional eight ambulances this year and hire up to 100 new employees locally, according to John Robben, who was hired in July as the company’s Grand Rapids-based regional director overseeing Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.

That is in addition to the 34 employees hired within the past six months. There currently are about 140 employees locally.

AMR offers emergency transportation, nonemergency and managed transportation, fixed-wing air ambulance and disaster response, according to its website. Its services include special events standby, and in Grand Rapids, AMR serves as the sole ambulance provider for DeVos Place and the Van Andel Arena, including the Grand Rapids Griffins.

The Greenwood Village, Colorado-based company has roots in Grand Rapids that go back more than 50 years. Mercy Ambulance Service was founded in Grand Rapids in 1952 and was acquired by the company now known as AMR in 1994. In March 2018, AMR was sold by Envision Healthcare and became a subsidiary of Dallas-based Global Medical Response.

As of Jan. 1, after a few years of company acquisitions, AMR fully integrated its air and ground services, which historically have operated separately, Robben said.

That means the company is better positioned to be able to use all its resources in whichever way its clients need, he said.

“It’s really about creating flow,” Robben said.

He said AMR recently was able to quickly coordinate a transport overseas.

“Before, we would not be able to do that or coordinate it. With one phone call, we were able to not only transport them by ground, but we were able to fly them across the world,” Robben said.

To address the national shortage of EMTs and paramedics and to help attract employees, AMR is working on bringing its Earn While You Learn program to Grand Rapids. Created at its Buffalo, New York, operation, the program pays people while they are in EMT certification classes. Following certification, they are offered a full-time job with benefits.

Traditionally, employees are hired after becoming certified. This program allows the company to offer job opportunities to people who traditionally may have been less likely to become EMTs, he said.

“Not everyone can forego a paycheck to go learn a new skill or to put themselves through school,” Robben said.

He said the company is working to spread the word to attract applicants from all areas of Grand Rapids’ inner city.

Students are paid for their hours in the four-to-six-week class, and classes hopefully will be offered at a variety of times. There is an interview and screening process, and there are driving records and minimal physical requirements, he said.

He said AMR is looking to partner with Great Lakes EMS Academy to facilitate the program.

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