Alameda County residents will see boxy teal and white ambulances hit the streets Tuesday as a new emergency transport service, Paramedics Plus, rolls out service.
While the colors and shapes of the ambulances may differ from the red and white rigs of their predecessors, American Medical Response, patients should see little difference in the people behind the wheel.
Many of Paramedics Plus' 375 employees moved over from American Medical Response.
That is how a transition should happen, said Jeff Taylor, head of the company's California operations. He worked for AMR until 2007.
"They are the absolute experts," he said. The former AMR staffers are familiar with the roads, people and hospitals in Alameda County.
Only Alameda, Albany, Berkeley and Piedmont will not be served by Paramedics Plus. Those cities contract ambulance services through their fire departments.
There will, however, be other changes that the 1.4 million people served in Alameda County will experience indirectly.
For one, Paramedics Plus capped overhead and net profits, Taylor said.
Profits over a 7 percent base will go to the county's Emergency Medical Services agency, which oversees and coordinates emergency health care.
Secondly, the county redesigned the way ambulances are dispatched to emergencies.
A dispatcher will ask a series of questions designed to determine which calls are critical and which do not require immediate care instead of treating every case as a top-tier emergency.
"We will send our resources to those who need it the most," Taylor said.
Fire department medics in Alameda County are the first responders in a medical emergency. Ambulances are supposed to take over during the transport.
The county will fine Paramedics Plus for exceeding the required response times in critical cases. They have 8½ minutes to respond to most emergency calls for an ambulance. That number goes up to 30 minutes when the call is not critical.
Most ambulance providers, including AMR, paid millions in fines over the past decade for response time noncompliance. Taylor said his company would also sometimes have to pay penalties. But he said the company will try to get as close to a 90 percent compliance rate as possible and have enough resources to cover the needs of the county, which represents one of the highest-volume contracts for the company, headquartered in Texas.
It is a for-profit arm of the nonprofit East Texas Medical Center Regional Hospital System.
The company anticipates 120,000 annual responses with 90,000 transports in Alameda County. Its largest contract is in Florida, near St. Petersburg.
Most of the local 57-strong fleet will be based at 575 Marina Blvd. in San Leandro. The company will keep four ambulances positioned in Fremont, Pleasanton and Livermore.
American Medical Response served Alameda County for nearly 40 years under its current name or previous incarnations before supervisors chose Paramedics Plus after a contentious bidding process that resulted in a lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court.
The Paramedics Plus contract and proposal, as well as bidding documents, are available at www.acphd.org/ems .
Staff writer Eric Kurhi contributed to this report.