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A new report on a Spokane medical school; plus, SPD's body cameras

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New Bid, Same Results

The city of Spokane went looking for private companies who wanted to provide ambulance service in the city and found only one: American Medical Response.

If you feel like you've read this news before, it's because you have. This summer, the city put out a call for ambulance bids, and AMR, which currently operates in Spokane, was the only bidder. After city council concerns that the bid request language unfairly favored AMR, the administration went back to bid. This week, they opened the results and found, again, only AMR's response.

Rival company Falck, which raised concerns about the first process, didn't bid. CEO Michael Collins says that's because he didn't receive two "key pieces of information" he requested from the city: a breakdown of how many people transported in ambulances are covered by Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance and how many are uninsured, and the average times ambulances are in use during calls. (Collins says the payer breakdown data belongs to AMR.) So, he says, his company couldn't come up with a realistic estimate of operating costs.

"We're not in the business of guessing," he says.

The city administration, including the fire department, will now analyze AMR's new bid and start contract negotiations. The city council is expected to vote on a new contract by the first of the year. (HEIDI GROOVER)

Informed Consent

After two months of somewhat selective recording, Spokane police officers will move forward with testing body cameras under an expanded order to VIDEO-RECORD ALMOST ALL CALLS. Police officials launched the new protocols Saturday, citing concerns about how much discretion officers had over recording.

SPD Chief Frank Straub reversed a previous policy that required the 17 SPD officers testing the cameras to shut off recordings when asked to do so within a private residence. Those officers will now announce the presence of a camera, but will not seek consent to record.

Police accountability advocates have called for more consistent recording and increased clarity regarding when officers must turn on cameras to avoid the censoring of some encounters. Officers will still have discretion during "sensitive" interactions such as death notifications.

The legal nonprofit Center for Justice issued a letter Monday asking the department to strengthen the language in its policy to demand that officers "shall" record instead of "should" record most encounters. The Center also sought clarification on officer discipline for failing to record and "unauthorized" uses of the cameras.

The department's pilot program is set to run through Dec. 31, with plans to expand the use of cameras to additional officers in January. (JACOB JONES)

The Other Med School Study

A little over a month after Washington State University's study proclaiming the promise of an independent four-year MEDICAL SCHOOL in Spokane, the University of Washington has countered with its own study that's been in the works since the spring.

And this study comes from Tripp Umbach, the same firm once championed in 2010 by WSU for its study regarding the massive economic impact that expanded medical education would have on Spokane. The study, released last Friday, clearly recommends expanding UW's current crop of medical students in Spokane, instead of allowing WSU to create an entirely new school.

It gets worse for WSU: The hope from the community that both programs could expand? Not an option, the report concludes: "Eastern Washington cannot currently support two medical schools due to limited clinical training sites and limited residency training sites."

The study praises UW's success in keeping students in the state, doesn't see the five-state region only having one medical school as a problem, and argues that UW is better poised to create new residency slots, despite its failure to create new residencies recently in Eastern Washington.

As part of an agreement, both schools have agreed not to officially oppose the other's proposal with state lawmakers, but that has hardly stopped the intense campaigning for their own proposals. (DANIEL WALTERS)

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