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Ambulance service in San Diego understaffed

 March 10, 2022 at 5:00 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Thursday, March 10th.


San Diego’s ambulance service is understaffed

More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….######

San Diego County is paring down its COVID 19 investigations. It will now limit its focus to people at higher risk of developing serious complications from the disease. That means contact tracing investigations will be limited to people 65 and older, and those who live in congregate settings where the virus could spread faster. The move is in line with the CDC’s recommendation.


San Diego mayor Todd Gloria wants to lower speed limits on some San Diego streets. Previously, cities in california had to base their speed limits on the actual speeds that most drivers go. But a new state law gives cities more discretion over speed limits, and Mayor Gloria wants to make use of it — particularly with traffic deaths on the rise.

"that's obviously a way that you can reduce the likelihood of an injury or a fatality. when vehicles are moving at slower speeds, that definitely reduces the likelihood of that terrible thing happening.”

72 people died in traffic collisions on city streets last year. That's a 41% increase in traffic deaths compared to 2019.


Santa Ana conditions are back. The national weather service put out a wind advisory for San Diego county’s mountain areas, including Julian and Pine Valley. It’ll remain in effect from 10 tonight through 3pm on Friday. Winds are expected from 25 to 35 miles per hour, with gusts up to 55 miles per hour.


From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now.
Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

San Diego officials are not pleased with the performance of their new ambulance provider. Yesterday (Tuesday) Falck got a progress report after operating in the city full-time for three months now. KPBS Health Reporter Matt Hoffman has more from the city council’s public safety and livable neighborhoods committee meeting.

San Diego Fire-Rescue Chief Colin Stowell says his department will be pursuing financial penalties after an early review of Falck’s 911 contract found the company was regularly understaffing ambulances.

“It would inappropriate for me and premature to probably identify a dollar amount right now but I can tell you that once this information is vetted through that we will be pursuing that avenue,”

Falck took over full operations in late November after promising just over a 1,000 staffing hours per day, but city data shows they have only hit that mark eight times over the last three months. Falck has yet to meet their monthly minimum staffing hours and the fire department says daily minimums are also often not met.

“The issue here is there were terms that we agreed to that are not being met,”

Councilmember Monica Montgomery-Steppe says Falck got the contract in part because they were going to provide a higher level of service.

Falck won outright, but if that was based on promises that could never have been fulfilled then we have to go back to the table because that makes it very unfair.”

Councilmember Raul Campillo says Falck is not following through on what they promised.

“I want to first and foremost ask Falck why we shouldn’t see the statistics from the last three months really a bait-and-switch on the city of San Diego?”

Falck’s leaders say they have been addressing disparities and are working with the department in areas where the company has fallen down.

“What we’ve seen along with the fire department is a significant improvement in February,”

Falck’s managing director Jeff Behm maintains that the recent COVID-19 surge complicated staffing, with up to 25% of the workforce out at one time.

“We are working hard to continue our recruitment, bring our employees on as quickly as we can,”

The fire department said there have been times in areas where no ambulances have been available and they have had to rely on mutual aid, while creating their own contingency plans. Behm says there may be no ambulances in certain areas because they operate a “dynamic system” meant to increase response times.

“all the units start out in one place but as the systems begins to get busy those units are moved — whether they are going on an assignment or not — they are moved around the city based on supply and demand,” Behm said. “So even though a unit is staffed in a station for Falck it may end up out of that station throughout it’s shift and may never go back to that station often based on the volume.”

The fire department, which runs the city’s 911 system, also says Falck has not been following their guidance. Jodie Pierce is the deputy chief of EMS.

“The city has provided direction to Falck in relation to operational, logistical, education, quality assurance matters that all kind of revolve around not only contract requirements but local and state requirements,” said SDFD Deputy Chief of EMS Jodie Pierce. “They have not followed that direction which has caused issues with our fire operations and county EMS.

Some crews are pulling extra shifts and city officials are worried about the potential for burnout.

“My workforce has endured incredible adversity in call volumes, staffing levels and difficult working conditions throughout these last few months of this transition,”

Anthony Sorci is a paramedic and president of the San Diego Association of Prehospital Professionals. He represents hundreds of employees and says conditions have been getting better

“We are happy to report that the service levels and in kind working levels have improved for our members and we are working weekly with Falck management to develop policies, processes and real time solutions to operations and staffing issues that have challenged the success of this start up.”

Before fines can be issued, Falck will have time to review the city’s data. The company has the 9-1-1 contract for the next five years. MH KPBS News.


San Diego's efforts to expand the convention center suffered a legal setback this week.

KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen says a judge declared the ballot measure to fund the project dead.

AB: Measure C on the March 2020 ballot would have raised the city's hotel tax to fund an expanded Convention Center and homelessness programs. It got almost, but not quite, a two-thirds majority. That kicked off a long and complex legal battle over what threshold the measure needed for approval, and whether the city waited too long before declaring the measure passed. Andrea Guerrero leads the nonprofit Alliance San Diego, which sued the city over Measure C.

AG: This case could have been about any ballot measure. Our concern was about the power taken by City Council to ignore election law and manipulate the election to get the results that they wanted.

AB: Mayor Todd Gloria called the ruling "an unfortunate delay" and says he supports the city filing an appeal. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news.


President Biden says gas prices will continue to go up in light of more sanctions on Russia. But experts say it’s not just gas prices that will increase.

KPBS reporter Kitty Alvarado visited a family owned restaurant, and she spoke with an economist about what this means for everyday Americans and if this continued inflation will trigger a recession

Viridiana, TJ the owners of Huapangos Mexican Cuisine have been working hard serving up authentic, delicious, Mexican dishes to the community in Hillcrest for almost two decades …

Salsa de habanero y chile de arbol

Ay que rico!

They’ve also been working hard to keep the doors open since the pandemic hit.

When the pandemic started it’s been the hardest years that we had to live through

But it’s been one hit after the next … now that the pandemic is easing, inflation and gas prices are clawing in on their profits

The meat went up, the to go boxes went up, the tortillas are going up … and then the payroll, the minimum wage went up in January so that’s another thing that’s hurting us

We already were struggling with high prices because of pandemic and all these things now the price everything I’m 100 percent positive is going to go up

They don't want to raise their prices but menu prices are a tricky thing to increase

For instance if I sell a carne asada burrito or enchiladas, I have a set price for that I cannot raise it up for 21 dollars a carne asada burrito or a plate of enchiladas I cannot go up to 22 dollars so I have to have a set price so for us with the food we’re kind of stuck

These people are exactly like us how can they afford to buy whatever, I’m not just talking about food they cannot afford it and honestly, I’m scared to raise the prices, if I raise the prices, if I raise the prices the business again is going to go down

Alan Gin, an associate professor of Economics at the University of San Diego, says Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will result in continued inflation… impacting consumers and local businesses the most.

I think it’s going to be translated into the prices of products with gas prices up, diesel prices up that’s going to cost more money then to ship products then that will eventually be built into the price of products and unfortunately this could keep inflation relatively high

But he says because the economy is strong it won’t have a lasting impact or trigger a recession… unless it drags on.

So a lot will depend on how long that conflict goes on …

we’re below 4% unemployment rate nationwide that means again that the economy is in pretty good shape right now so I think … you know even if this conflict goes through the summer, that’s not going to be enough to tip the economy into a recession

For now Viri and TJ say they will keep working and remain hopeful they can continue to do what they love


Glasses clinking

Kitty Alvarado, KPBS News


Transgender people from Mexico who are living in the United States can now get birth certificates and passports that affirm their name and gender. KPBS border reporter Gustavo Solis tells us why this means so much to the cross-border LGBTQ community.

Before this year, transgender Mexican nationals who wanted their birth certificates and passports to reflect their name and gender had to overcome a series of bureaucratic and discriminatory obstacles.

Carlos Gonzalo Gutierrez is the Consul General of Mexico in San Diego. Here is how he describes the old process.

“Until now, you had to go back to Mexico go in front of a judge and claim through litigation for the recognition of the right of their identity. Obviously, that in and of itself is discriminatory.”

But now every Mexican consulate in the country allows transgender people to update their documents. Three local activists were the first to go through the process here in San Diego.

Jamie Arangure is the director of the Proyecto Trans Latina advocacy group. She calls it a victory in a years-long battle.

“Now we are going to feel the freedom to show our passport or ID that says this is me. This is the real me.”

With these proper ID’s, transgender people from Mexico will not face the same levels of discrimination in San Diego that they experienced before.

This is Gustavo Solis for KPBS News.


Coming up....

Victoria Mature connects with her late famous father, through a unique multimedia production. More on that next, just after the break.

This Saturday, Bodhi Tree Concerts presents the Victoria and Victor Mature Cabaret. It's a unique, multimedia father-daughter act in which Victoria pays tribute to her late father, a star of classic Hollywood – Victor Mature. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando speaks with Victoria, who’s a San Diego resident, about her dad and creating the show.

That was Beth Accomando speaking with Victoria Mature. Bodhi Tree Concerts presents the Victoria and Victor Mature Cabaret this Saturday at VISION in San Diego.

That’s it for the podcast today. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department will be pursuing financial penalties after an early review of Falck’s contract found the company was regularly understaffing ambulances. Meanwhile, efforts to expand the San Diego Convention Center are facing more legal setbacks. Plus, Victoria Mature appears in a multimedia production alongside her late father and renowned actor Victor Mature at Bodhi Tree Concerts.