California County Chooses Smaller Ambulance Service - News - @

California County Chooses Smaller Ambulance Service

Santa Clara County chooses smaller, cheaper ambulance company


Joe Rodriguez, San Jose Mercury News | | Thursday, December 16, 2010

In a close vote Tuesday, Santa Clara County officials chose a new ambulance company, rejecting arguments that the public still doesn't know what it's getting and that the winner low-balled the true costs of transporting patients to hospitals.

"There's been a lot of public outreach and a lot of scrutiny," Supervisor Mike Wasserman said in the board's chamber. A newcomer elected only a month ago, he cast the swing vote for Rural/Metro, an Arizona-based company that serves San Diego and a handful of smaller cities in San Diego County, plus communities in 19 other states.

The stakes Tuesday were high in both financial and health terms. The five-year contract is valued at about $45 million a year, depending on how well Rural/Metro collects from a wide range of patients and health insurers -- from penniless transients to Medicare and health maintenance organizations.

Starting in July, Rural/Metro will replace American Medical Response, which held the contract for the past seven years. Its predecessor had the contract for about 30 years. "We're disappointed," AMR CEO Thomas Wagner said after the vote. Wagner called the winner's bid suspiciously low and said the county should have hired independent analysts to scrutinize the proposal.

For example, he said, Rural/Metro could not possibly collect more than $50 million it expects from impoverished patients or from Medicare and HMOs, which pay far less for ambulance rides than other health plans. "Our argument is that you haven't done the job you should have done, and the process is flawed," Wagner said about the county's negotiation with Rural/Metro.

He said AMR will consider filing a lawsuit based on state law that forbids false bids on public contracts. Rural/Metro spokesman Michael Simonsen said the contract is "well-thought and responsible," adding: "There is no doubt we can deliver." Supervisors Ken Yeager and Liz Kniss voted against the contract, saying the public didn't have enough time to look it over. They suggested sponsoring a workshop or two and delaying the vote to early next year. "It just needs a little more time for the public to understand and to embrace it," Yeager said.

In some respects, Simonsen said, AMR's charges were too high. For example, he said Rural/Metro will charge about $35 for an ambulance ride from Gilroy to Valley Medical Center in San Jose, less than half what AMR charges. In casting the deciding vote, Wasserman said he'd had ample time to study the contract online and catch up on public hearings held on the contract over the past two and a half years. He said Rural/Metro's critics couldn't back up their suspicions.

Under questioning from Kniss, County Executive Jeff Smith -- who favored Rural/Metro's bid -- said there were enough safeguards in the contract to protect taxpayers and patients. For example, he said the county would monitor ambulance service daily, report to the supervisors every three months and require Rural/Metro to set aside millions of dollars the county could tap if it has to take over ambulance service.

Also Tuesday, Smith outlined a preliminary plan to trim about $56 million from the county's 2010-11 general operating budget. The $2.1 billion spending plan approved in June fell out of balance after the state and federal governments lowered financial support to the county.

Smith and county department heads are recommending a number of spending cuts and changes in the way the county captures revenue from sources such as Medi-Cal and food stamps. Smith also calls for eliminating six vacant positions.

Next month, Smith will present the board with phase two of his plan, which will include the potential reduction of an additional 116 positions -- some of them currently filled.

Copyright © 2013 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy

Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: News, politics, budget, finances, AMR, Rural Metro

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

Improving Survival from Cardiac Arrest Using ACD-CPR + ITD

Using active compression-decompression CPR with an ITD has been shown to improve 1-year survival from cardiac arrest by 33%.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Philadelphia Fire Department Apologizes for Medic’s Jab at Police

Union head calls photos a slap in the face of officers.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

D.C. Fire and EMS Crews Blame New Technology for Patient’s Death

Delayed response blamed on recurring dispatch problems.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

Suspect Steals, Crashes Maryland Ambulance

One killed, others injured in Prince George’s County crash.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

Tennessee Trench Rescue

Worker pulled from Roane County worksite.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Time’s Ebola Firefighters

Doctors, nurses and others saluted for fighting virus.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Car Strikes Manhattan Pedestrians

Seven people hurt when car jumps curb.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Braun Ambulances' EZ Door Forward

Helps to create a safer ambulance module.
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 >