Falck San Diego is the new ambulance provider for San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone
Falck San Diego is the new ambulance provider for San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

Nearly a year ago, we warned the city of San Diego against changing paramedic providers, from AMR to Falck, a Denmark-based company with little experience providing 9-1-1 service to large American cities such as ours.  

Our warnings were echoed by a variety of local organizations, such as the San Diego Black Nurses Association and the San Diego & Imperial Counties Labor Council, which also expressed deep concerns with Falck’s ability to serve our city. 

Despite these pleas, the City Council awarded the contract to Falck last April. A year later, Falck has, in fact, proven to be an utter disaster.  

Today, nearly four months into its contract, Falck’s performance in San Diego has been downright miserable and the company may find itself in breach of contract. While Falck promised to provide 1,008 paramedic unit hours each day beginning on “Day 1,” they have done so on only 8 of the 102 days it has had the contract, according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.   

It’s important to note that Falck beat out AMR by only 1.5 points out of a possible score of 100 based on its promise to provide 1,008 unit hours. Falck, however, has provided far fewer hours — the equivalent of putting on the streets approximately 12 fewer ambulances per day than it is contractually obligated to do.   

Further, fed up with low morale, understaffing, under-supplied ambulances and payroll problems, nearly 20 Falck medics who were hired for the San Diego contract have left the  company since Falck started service here in November. 

In the words of Councilmember Raul Campillo, Falck’s performance “is deeply troubling and quite frankly angering.” 

He’s right. Paramedic service is the backbone of San Diego’s EMS system. Seconds often make the difference between life and death.   

At last spring’s City Council meeting, many speakers spoke of Falck’s reputation for over promising and underdelivering. Unfortunately, this is exactly what has happened here.  

We call on the San Diego City Council to hold Falck accountable If the company doesn’t  improve service quickly, Falck should be replaced without delay.   

Paul Hegyi is the CEO of the San Diego County Medical Society. Terry Cunningham is the President of the Liver Coalition of San Diego.