An update on the city’s new ambulance service is set to go before a San Diego City Council committee this week amid the company’s continued staffing challenges and critical news reports.
The review prepared for the Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee is required as part of the city’s contract with Falck Mobile Health Corporation, which replaced long-time provider American Medical Response last November.
It’s been a rocky start since the contract was approved in June. There have been editorials and news stories critical of the earliest efforts. Fire-Rescue Department officials weren’t happy either.
In a May 5 letter to the council committee, Fire Chief Colin Stowell said the company is having problems finding staff. It’s an issue that’s plagued Falck from the beginning of their service in San Diego.
Monica Munoz, media services manager for the city, said Falck continues to struggle but “they are working on it.” She had some good news as well.
“To our knowledge, no one who has called 9-1-1 and needed medical assistance has been denied that help,” she said. “We are in the process of reviewing and verifying the data from the first few months of their operation.”
Jeff Lucia of Falck had no argument with the criticism. He said he knows they are short staffed but are working on the problem, explaining that the company has “made ongoing investments in double pay plus bonuses for paramedics and EMTs who work extra shifts, along with extensive recruiting and hiring bonuses of up to $12,000 for paramedics, and referral bonuses of up to $6,000.”
“Our response-time performance in San Diego has shown steady improvement since February, when the Omicron surge began to wind down, and we have met or exceeded contractual response-time requirements for all priority levels across all zones since the beginning of April,” Lucia added.
The company could face penalties for its earlier hiccups, according Stowell’s letter to the committee. “The Fire-Rescue Department is finalizing the penalty methodology as well as the final analysis of response data to determine Falck’s performance in the last quarter,” he wrote.
Munoz said a monetary fine could potentially be levied, but “that has not been finalized yet.”
The emergency services update is on the agenda for the council committee’s meeting on Tuesday, May 18.