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Public Safety

San Diego Council To Consider Extending Contract With Ambulance Service


With a bidding process for emergency medical transportation services caught up in litigation, the City Council Monday will consider a five-year contract extension with Rural/Metro Ambulance.

If approved, the deal would buy time for city officials to work through legal snags that have prevented them from opening up the ambulance contract to competitive bidding.

The city and Rural/Metro, which sends ambulances to emergency scenes in conjunction with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, have had a complicated relationship over the last several years.

The two sides once worked together in a joint venture, but that dissolved after a 2011 city audit alleged accounting irregularities. A later investigation exonerated the ambulance provider, but the partnership was converted into a typical vendor contract.

The city has worked with Rural/Metro under a couple of short-term contract extensions while officials prepared to take bids from competitors, but the current contract expires at the end of the current fiscal year on June 30.

According to a city staff report, litigation over California's complex EMS rules could take several years, necessitating the longer term this time around.

The report says state authorities believe it is up to the county of San Diego, as the local EMS agency, to issue the Request for Proposals that would initiate the bidding. The county plans to appeal the state decision, which could wind up in the courts and, thus, take a long time, the report said.

The proposed extension includes requirements for improved service levels and response times that would have been included in the RFP, according to the report.

The city said Rural/Metro, which contracts for ambulance services with local governments around the nation, has agreed to spend around $10.6 million over the length of the contract to replace 47 aging ambulances, and purchase 160 cardiac monitors and mobile patient record devices — of which 100 would go into SDFRD vehicles.

For patients, transport fees that currently range from almost $1,500 to nearly $1,700 per trip, would go up 9 percent to 14 percent under the new contract from current rates. A basic non-emergency transport fee would decline 43 percent to $850 under the proposal.