San Diego (CA) Falck Service Will Launch Next Month after Hiring Spree

The photo shows the side of an ambulance with a blue Star of Life.
File Photo

David Garrick

The San Diego Union-Tribune

(MCT)

A recent hiring spree has given Falck USA enough paramedics and emergency medical technicians to ensure a smooth transition when Falck takes over ambulance service in San Diego next month, company officials said Wednesday.

City Fire Chief Colin Stowell expressed concern last month that Falck was short 33 paramedics and 63 EMTs, with only 10 weeks left before the company replaces longtime city ambulance provider American Medical Response on Nov. 27.

Falck has since filled 28 of the 33 open paramedic slots and hired 102 EMTs, which fills all the vacancies and gives the company 29 additional EMTs. The hiring spree gives Falck 143 paramedics and 221 EMTs in total, the company said.

“We’re extremely pleased with where we are at in this process,” company spokesman Troy Hagen said outside Falck’s new Kearny Mesa headquarters Wednesday morning. “It’s hard to find restaurant help; it’s hard to find hotel help — it’s hard to find help anywhere.”

Falck will have more paramedics and EMTs than AMR because Falck has promised the city 1,008 daily ambulance hours, 20 percent more than the 840 daily hours that AMR has been providing.

That was a key reason the City Council chose Falck over AMR as San Diego’s ambulance provider last spring. The council’s approval included a six-month transition period to allow Falck to staff up and prepare to take over.

The company hasn’t made any headway on a second concern raised last month by Chief Stowell: Falck’s struggles to secure enough new ambulances to keep a promise it would begin service with a fleet of 66 all-new ambulances.

Falck has 33 new ambulances, which meets its contractual agreement that at least half its ambulances be brand new. But a pandemic-related microchip shortage means the entire fleet won’t be all-new until sometime next spring, officials said.

“It really is 100 percent reliant on Ford, which is 100 percent reliant on the microchips,” Hagen said.

Falck is filling the second half of its San Diego fleet with older ambulances that will be equipped to meet San Diego’s standards and painted to match the new ambulances with “Falck San Diego” logos, Hagen said.

On the recent staffing success, Hagen said hiring paramedics and EMTs is more complicated than hiring for most other jobs.

“There is a lot of credentialing and certifications they have to have,” said Hagen, crediting Falck’s human resources team for getting so many new workers across the finish line. “We have a full talent acquisition team.”

The company is also paying $12,000 signing bonuses to new paramedics, who need more certifications than EMTS because they perform more advanced life-saving procedures, including intubations.

Chief Stowell also expressed concerns last month that Falck had been slow to fill some of its San Diego leadership positions. Hagen said Wednesday that all but a few administrative positions have now been filled.

Falck is slowly taking over a 30,000-square-foot building in Kearny Mesa that will serve as the company’s San Diego headquarters, including executive offices, training rooms and information technology labs.

The building, 4885 Greencraig Lane near Ruffin Road, will also house about 33 Fire Department personnel focused on emergency medical services.

“To be co-located is really ideal,” Stowell said last month, noting the city hasn’t had that opportunity with AMR. “It really builds a better partnership.”

Hagen said Falck considered dozens of buildings before settling on the Greencraig Lane location. They moved into part of the building Aug. 1, expanded into more of the building Oct. 1 and will take it over completely Nov. 1, Hagen said.

Falck has spent over $23 million so far on its San Diego operations. That includes new cardiac monitors and the new ambulances, which are about $175,000 each.

Seven of the new ambulances have pick-up truck fronts instead of the more traditional van-style fronts. Hagen said Falck had to be flexible to get enough new ambulances.

Falck is a Danish company that handles ambulance service in many cities around the world. Internationally, Falck provides ambulance service in Denmark, Sweden, Spain, Germany, Colombia and Australia.

Domestically, the company provides service in Oregon, Colorado, Michigan, Georgia, Mississippi, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and California — including Orange County, Los Angeles County and Alameda County.

This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.

©2021 The San Diego Union-Tribune. Visit sandiegouniontribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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