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Newly Picked San Diego EMS Provider Promises More Ambulances, Paramedics

A Falck ambulance is showing driving on a street during the daytime in this u...


Above: A Falck ambulance is showing driving on a street during the daytime in this undated photo.

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Soon, if you have a medical emergency in San Diego and call 911, a new ambulance company will be taking you to the hospital.

Aired: April 15, 2021 | Transcript

Soon, if you have a medical emergency in San Diego and call 911, a new ambulance company will be taking you to the hospital.

After a marathon San Diego City Council meeting Tuesday, councilmembers voted unanimously to choose Falck as its emergency medical services provider (EMS).

"This has been a long time coming," said San Diego Fire-Rescue Chief Colin Stowell. "We have not seen this type of a turn over since 1997."

American Medical Response, or AMR, is San Diego’s current EMS provider, but the company was beaten out by Falck twice in a competitive bidding process.

"Falck's proposal received the highest score because they provide a higher level of service than the other proposal," said San Diego Councilmember Vivian Moreno during Tuesday evenings discussion.

Stowell said AMR and Falck's proposals were similar, but Falck offered an increased level of service.

RELATED: San Diego City Council Takes Cautious Approach Toward Ambulance Contract

"Those additional staffing hours at just over 1,000 hours a day correlate to about 10 to 14 ambulances depending on how you deploy those ambulances," Stowell said.

That could help stabilize response times and means there will be more paramedics working in the city at one time.

"Anytime you’re going to add additional ambulances means you’re going to need additional personnel," Stowell said.

Some councilmembers questioned Falck's proposal. They asked how the company would pay for the increased EMS service and questioned executives over plans to beef up staffing.

"I’m just worried we don't have the legal tools in this contract to enforce a lot of these promises," said San Diego Councilmember Marni von Wilpert.

Stowell said penalties will increase if any violations are not corrected and said there are other benefits, too.

Reported by Matt Hoffman

"This contract is also going to give us the ability to enforce and mandate the staffing levels of the ambulances," he said.

Falck's U.S. CEO Matt Gallagher told the City Council the company is committed to San Diego.

"The contract requires us to maintain staffing levels, the CBA says we have to treat employees a certain way and our reputation is what we stand by," he said during Tuesday's meeting.

Stowell said all of the current AMR employees will be offered jobs with Falck. The contract still needs final approval by the council before it heads to the mayor's office.

AMR ambulances are not going away right away, they still have the 911 contract for another six months. During that time Falck will ramp up operations and bring in new equipment.

"This will be a delicate time over the next six months because during this transition process we need to make sure there’s not any service gaps," Stowell said.

In an emailed statement Wednesday, Falck's Chief Commercial Officer Troy Hagen said in part, "Falck is honored and privileged to have been selected unanimously to bring improved emergency ambulance service to all San Diegans."

Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.

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Photo of Matt Hoffman

Matt Hoffman
Health Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a general assignment reporter for KPBS. In addition to covering the latest news and issues that are relevant to the San Diego community, I like to dig deeper to find the voices and perspectives that other media often miss.

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