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New Ambulance Rules Tested in California City

Riverside has gotten the first application for an ambulance permit under the new rules, and there are likely to be more in the coming months.

Orange County-based Care Ambulance has applied for a permit that would allow it to run non-emergency ambulance calls, also called inter-facility transport, within city limits, Riverside Fire Chief Steve Earley said.

Earley said he also met with officials from Corona-based Cavalry Ambulance, who wanted more information and have not submitted an application. Cavalry applied to the city in 2009 but was not given a permit.

Care's application is noteworthy because it will be the first one considered under the city's new criteria, which the council voted to change earlier this month.

Emergency calls in most of Riverside County are handled by American Medical Response through an exclusive contract with the county. Everywhere but the city of Riverside, non-emergency calls - such as trips between a nursing home and doctor's office - are an open market in which various companies compete for business.

For years, Riverside has had a de facto monopoly because under the city's franchise permit system, AMR has been the only company allowed to operate. Other companies, including Cavalry, have applied for city permits but all have been rejected.

Council members overhauled the permit rules this month in response to criticism that the system should be more open. Among the changes was requiring that companies be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services, creating a city inspection process for vehicles and equipment, and removing consideration of whether the existing permit holder would be financially harmed by the granting of more permits.

Cavalry officials declined to comment on their interest in a Riverside permit and a Care official did not respond to two messages requesting comment.

Earley said it could take three to six months to review Care's application and make a recommendation to council members.

"There's been so much discussion and controversy around this, we just want to make sure we do a thorough job," he said.

Earley is also still hammering out details of the rules that the council asked him to follow up on, such as how much a new franchise fee should be and when city inspections should be required, since Riverside County and the California Highway Patrol already periodically inspect ambulances.

Councilman Paul Davis, a critic of the old rules, said he's not sure how the application process will go because the changes didn't really clarify a key point, which is demonstrating the need for additional ambulance service.

"How do you prove 'need and necessity?' Nobody knows," he said.

Still, some observers expect a flood of applications now that new rules are in place.

Corona's Mission Ambulance was rejected for a Riverside permit in 2011, but Chief Operating Officer Rick Hartsock said he plans to re-apply once his accreditation materials are submitted to the accreditation commission.

Hartsock doesn't think Mission and Care will be the only applicants.

"I believe that there is a crack in the dam and everyone sees that," he said.

Follow Alicia Robinson on Twitter: @arobinson_pe or online at

http://blog.pe.com/author/arobinson/



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