For the last 10-plus years, the familiar red-and-white American Medical Response ambulances patrolled the county's roads, but starting July 1 the county's ambulance company of choice will switch to the bright blue and gold of Rural/Metro.
Santa Clara County will be the second location in the state for Rural/Metro, but the company is known as the second largest emergency medical services provider in the nation. The company will operate out of its new headquarters in San Jose, bringing with it a fleet of 55 new ambulances marked with custom decals for the county.
The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors made the decision to switch ambulance companies in December 2009. County residents in need of emergency services should continue to dial 911.
An ambulance will continue to be housed in the Saratoga Fire Station, 14380 Saratoga Ave.
A big difference between AMR and Rural/Metro is the cost to patients for a trip to the hospital. During the bidding process, Rural/Metro proposed charging $30 a mile, compared with AMR's $90. In total charges, a five-mile transport with Rural was proposed to average around $1,550, whereas AMR proposed just over $2,000.
None of the costs are paid by taxpayers, but by patients and insurance companies. Patients without insurance are billed directly. When patients are unable to pay, the ambulance service must absorb the costs, said Jason Sorrick, AMR director of communications and government relations.
"The county's decision was primarily based on price," Sorrick said. "AMR believes we presented the best balance between price and clinical care. We take the clinical side of our business very seriously."
AMR will not leave Santa Clara County entirely and will provide non-emergency and specialty transportation, according to Sorrick.
Also under the new contract, Rural/Metro is required to offer positions to the EMTs employed with AMR. According to Michael Simonsen, director of public affairs for Rural/Metro, the vast majority of the 250 EMTs countywide were kept on board.
"We're extremely excited to be the new paramedic provider," Simonsen said. "We're really looking forward to beginning our services and delivering the highest level of service that we believe the residents have ever seen."