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San Diego's ambulance provider facing $457,000 penalty for not meeting response times

Another progress report for San Diego’s new ambulance provider shows it’s still failing to meet expectations. And this time there are financial penalties. KPBS Health reporter Matt Hoffman explains.

San Diego City Council documents suggest the city’s ambulance provider, Falck, is facing a $457,500 penalty for not meeting the terms of its contract.

Falck won San Diego’s 911 contract last year and took over full operations in November. The company’s first contract update in early March found Falck was understaffing ambulances and not providing the level of service promised. Falck representatives committed to addressing the issues, maintaining that COVID-19 outbreaks among staff and hiring challenges had complicated operations.

“Beginning in February, as the omicron surge subsided, Falck has steadily improved its performance in San Diego and has been fully compliant with response-time requirements throughout April and May, in all zones and for all priorities,” said Falck spokesperson Jeff Lucia in an email statement.


The San Diego Fire Rescue Department runs the city’s 911 system and oversees the Falck contract. In March, the city indicated that fines would be coming for contract noncompliance.

“Falck continues to work towards meeting the primary obligations of the contract to include staffing hours, response times, unit hour utilization ratios and filling leadership/administrative positions,” according to a May 5 report from the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department (SDFD).

“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 (January through March 2022),” the report said.

Falck is set for another contract update Wednesday at the San Diego City Council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee meeting.

Council documents show Falck was initially assessed a $2.3 million penalty, but “due to COVID-19” it was reduced by $1.9 million, then to $457,500.


The penalty comes because the company did not meet requirements for response times and the firm did not send out paramedic ambulances on certain calls.

“Fire-Rescue will continue to work with Falck to ensure they are accountable to contract terms and ensure quality service is provided to the city,” said the recent report prepared by the fire department.

The SDFD report said because of the pandemic’s winter surge, city officials approved a request for “full relief from all response time requirements starting December 27, 2021 through January 31, 2022 due to COVID-19 related staffing issues.”

Council documents show Falck has met response time requirements for the month of April.

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