Harris County Emergency Services District 11 commissioners at an Aug. 28 emergency meeting approved a contract with American Medical Response Inc. to provide temporary supplemental emergency services after two catalytic converters were stolen off of district-owned ambulances last week.

The move came days before the Sept. 1 launch date of the district’s newly formed ESD 11 Mobile Healthcare, which will take over providing emergency services for approximately 177 square miles in areas including Cypress, Tomball and Spring.

Jerry Thomas, ESD 11 Mobile Healthcare community engagement manager, said the contract calls for AMR to provide five additional ambulances to assist the 20 ambulances the district has ready for launch.

Thomas said that several additional district-purchased ambulances have arrived this week, though he noted they need to be stocked and prepared for use before they can be deployed.

According to ESD 11 Mobile Healthcare CEO Doug Hooten, the catalytic converters were stolen from the ambulances while they were at an outside vendor that was installing new graphics on the vehicles. ESD 11 General Counsel Regina Adams said the catalytic converters were not stolen off of the ambulances on district-owned property.

Hooten said that while the district was able to secure two replacement catalytic converters for the ambulances, the contract with AMR was still needed as a precaution to address issues resulting from the rising number of COVID-19 cases.

“Hospital wait times have been increasing somewhere in the average of probably 45 minutes to an hour, but we’ve seen as high as two to three hours of wait times at hospitals, which certainly impacts resource availability to the system,” Hooten said. “We decided that it would be in our best interest to bring in a strike team to ensure a high level of service to the community and not overtax our employees and the surrounding areas with expected volume because of these issues.”

According to Hooten, the contract will serve as a temporary measure that will last a maximum of five days until the district receives the remainder of the new ambulances it purchased for ESD 11 Mobile Healthcare.