Safety drives Visalia debate

Tulare Co. board looks at several ambulance options


Sarah Jimenez | | Wednesday, August 29, 2007

VISALIA, California- After listening to a pitch to change ambulance services to a single provider, Tulare County supervisors told staffers to continue working on all options to address concerns over response times and the loss of service in rural areas.

Those options include consolidation of services, a joint-powers authority or simply strengthening future county contracts to enforce performance standards.

That is something supervisors currently are not able to do with the county's nine ambulance providers.

After Tuesday's presentation, the board didn't appear convinced that going to a single provider was the only option.

Daniel Lynch, administrator for the Central California Emergency Medical Services Agency, said the county's current setup using nine providers doesn't ensure the closest ambulance responds to an incident.

Ambulance companies have exclusive operating areas that preclude providers from crossing boundaries, Lynch said.

Under a single-provider system, one ambulance company would cover all of Tulare County, except Dinuba, where the Fire Department operates the city's tax-supported ambulance service.

Lynch said a contract with a single provider could include performance standards -- not included in the county's current contracts.

Supervisors questioned why the contracts lack standards. They also asked whether a joint powers authority agreement among the nine providers might work.

Opinions on what the county should do varied among the dozens of residents, paramedics and ambulance company administrators attending Tuesday's hearing.

Some people wore blue ribbons symbolizing support for some kind of improvement in ambulance services.

Scott Scheer, human resources manager for Imperial Ambulance in Porterville, asked that the board give providers a chance to address concerns.

"We have not been given an opportunity, and I believe we could come up with an amicable solution to take care of these problems," he said.

David Cooper, owner of American Ambulance of Visalia, said he and other providers have talked about an alliance and believe they can draft a plan.

He said providers showed they can work collectively after consolidating dispatch services a few years ago.

But Visalia paramedic Ralph Herrera said companies have had "ample time" to make changes, including improving response times and coverage. Different company management styles wouldn't work well under a joint powers authority, he said.

"This ambulance service is in desperate need of change -- I've seen it," he said.

Diana Pearcy said she has experienced the inefficiency of the county's current setup and thinks a single-provider system would have helped her family.

About a year and a half ago, she found her 29-year-old daughter in a coma-like state on her bed in their home between Woodlake and Ivanhoe. A fire unit arrived within 10 minutes, but it took more than an hour for an ambulance to arrive, she said.

"Are we to assume taking one hour to arrive to our home must be expected practice? No, we are not," she said.

Supervisors agreed more information and research is needed before any decision is made. That includes discussions among providers and the county outlining performance standards they want to see.

Supervisor Phil Cox said the county has an opportunity to improve services and he hoped ambulance companies walked away Tuesday thinking about how they can be a part of it.

"There needs to be some performance measures in place," he said. "I can't believe we've gone on this long without something in writing."

Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: Leadership and Professionalism, Communications and Dispatch, Industry News, Ambulances, Operations and Protcols

What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Buyer's Guide Featured Companies

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS

Get JEMS in Your Inbox


Fire EMS Blogs

Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts


EMS Airway Clinic

Mechanical CPR is Producing Resuscitation Results Beyond Expectations

Discover why clinical studies are finding mechanical CPR just as effective as optimally-performed CPR.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

New Technology Helps Missouri Ambulances

Strategic GPS tracking helps in Springfield.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

Profile: Hospital Wing Air Ambulance

Take a look inside this Memphis service.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

New Monitors for Wyoming EMS

Grant helps Torrington EMS get new equipment.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

London Medics Increasingly Attacked

One medic describes her violent confrontation.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

Violence, Arson in Ferguson

Crowds in Ferguson and elsewhere react to decision.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

California Bus Rollover

One killed and dozens injured.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Buffalo Residents Dig Out and Prepare for Flooding

Flooding expected as heavy snow melts.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Field Bridge Xpress ePCR on iPad, Android, Kindle Fire

Sneak peek of customizable run forms & more.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

LMA MAD Nasal™

Needle-free intranasal drug delivery.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

VividTrac offered by Vivid Medical - EMS Today 2013

VividTrac, affordable high performance video intubation device.
Watch It >

More Product Videos >