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Ambulance Company Asks Murrieta City Council to Apologize

They alleged misleading and "false" statements about AMR employees were made during a March 6 City Council workshop held to discuss the possibility of an annual paramedic fee for residents.

Representatives from American Medical Response, which provides ambulance services to Murrieta, asked City Council members for an apology Tuesday.

They alleged misleading and "false" statements about AMR employees were made during a March 6 City Council workshop for residents.

Murrieta Fire Chief Matt Shobert is recommending the optional fee to recoup costs he says are spent providing paramedic services. Shobert said the Fire Department is getting a return of about 30 percent of materials used during calls when Murrieta firefighter/paramedics arrive on scene prior to AMR.

AMR Operations Manager Jim Price said he watched a video playback of the City Council discussion and was disheartened by some of the statements made.

"It seems it is OK for us to participate in washing toilets but it is not OK to participate in Thanksgiving dinners," Price said, as ambulance crews rent space at Murrieta fire stations.

"It is OK if you guys want to attack AMR and it is OK to attack me but it is not OK to attack the fine men and women who do the same work you do to protect our community," Price said.

Supported by fellow uniformed workers who sat in the audience, AMR paramedic and Murrieta resident Shelly Hudelson approached the Council. Hudelson brought up a statement made by Councilman Randon Lane in which he said AMR was committing "fraud" by recouping fees for work provided by Murrieta firefighter/paramedics.

"How can AMR charge for services we are providing and it not be considered fraud?" Lane said during the March 6 workshop.

Hudelson said she took his statement to mean that AMR paramedics were inferior to Murrieta crews.

"Two weeks ago you made misleading and false allegations of fraud," Hudelson said. "...You talked about response times and an unacceptable level of care...You used words like 'our guys are experts and more trained.' The fact is some of your guys were trained by these guys. They went to the same schools and took the same training.

"I am glad my fire department strives for excellence, but if you need to state that (this fee) is for training and equipment and fuel, please do so but not by insulting professionals who run twice as many calls per day.

"We ask for an apology from the City Council."

Because the issue was not on the Council agenda, Council members said they could not immediately respond to AMR's concerns.

During a portion in which they can address the public, however, Lane clarified his allegation of "fraud."

"I made it very clear that my comments were not dealing with actual illegal things AMR was trying to do," Lane said. "My concern was and is the rules in which our system is being handled. It is more (because of) the county that we have a monopoly in our system. AMR operates under those rules. I disagree with those rules by the county. I do not believe AMR is doing anything intentionally illegal but I do have grave concern and I will continue to lobby..."

Lane was referring to the city of Murrieta's request that the Riverside County Board of Supervisors Under a long-held county contract, AMR must arrive to emergency medical response calls within nine minutes, 59 seconds—something Murrieta officials have said they are not satisfied with.

The issue was scheduled to be discussed again by the Board of Supervisors March 13, but was taken off the agenda.

Councilman Alan Long, who is a battalion chief for the Anaheim Fire Department, said he has never made comments directed at AMR employees.

"I am not going to back down on anything I've said about the system," Long said. "Our system is redundant; it is also 15-20 years behind other counties. That needs to be fixed...A contract that has not been bid out for over three decades need to go out to bid. No where in there is anything directed at the employees."

When asked about AMR's statements made to City Council, Fire Chief Matt Shobert said they "did not merit a response."

Murrieta Firefighter/Paramedic Dean Hale spoke of good relationships with AMR employees. He said he knows of former AMR employees who chose to leave because of the way the organization was ran.

"Those are their words not mine," Hale said. "I have cooked Thanksgiving dinner—where they don’t pay for food, it comes out of my pocket. We have meals waiting for them but they never return. We respect the paramedics we work with..."

Hale said a law that was passed in 1983 required fire departments to staff trained paramedics.

"Because ambulances weren't doing their job, firefighter/paramedics were required to step up and do the job," Hale said.

The city continues to further discuss starting the . Residents who pay a $48 annual fee would not be billed for paramedic calls, but those who do not could be charged $350 per occurrence. Businesses could enroll in the program based on the number of employees.

Murrieta resident Jacqueline Fenaroli told City Council she opposed the fee.

"...A fire engine is an expensive and a redundant service when an ambulance will show up shortly....there are other better and cheaper ways to accomplish this," Fenaroli said.

She encouraged an open bid process, or even allowing multiple ambulance companies to compete to get to emergencies quickest.

"With our high unemployment rate and our (living) expenses...the citizens of Murrieta can not bear this tax. I would urge the Council to put it to a vote and see it the citizens really want it because this citizen doesn’t," Fenaroli said.

MAC March 28, 2012 at 03:16 AM
Jeff... Maybe I didn't come across so clear. If not, I apologize. I am not saying a "competitive" bid process will, or will not, improve response times and/or patient outcomes. In a bidding process, the agency/city requesting bids will dictate what they want the response times to be. The bidder has to meet those defined/set standards. If they don't, usually a penalty (monetary fine) is assessed; and in some cases, material breach. That help?
MAC March 28, 2012 at 03:31 AM
Joh Q... Thanks for pointing out the link to PublicCEO. Pretty amazing that the chief actually admitted he includes cancelled calls where MFD units never arrived on scene. So a unit responds yet gets cancelled 10 seconds in. The second unit responds to the same location in 10 minutes. 10 mins + 9sec= 10 mins 9 secs divided by 2 = 5 mins 4.5 seconds. I finally get it! Shobert/LAFD math! "Real world math" looks like this... MFD T1 responds to Hunter and 79 area... T1 gets cancelled in 9 seconds. MFD E3 becomes available and responds in place of T1 and arrives on scene in 10 mins. Avg response time = 1 unit ACTUALLY arriving on scene in 10 mins = 10 divided by 1 which ='s? Chief? Anyone? Beuller?
Jeff March 28, 2012 at 03:48 AM
MAC, not sure where the disconnect here is but open bidding does not in anyway change anything you mentioned. The County of Riverside sets the response standards by zone not the provider in bid process. The current contract does provide a financial penalty for missed response times so I am still not sure what your point on competitive bid is. Sorry if I am missing the point but I cannot figure out where you are coming from. What would be different than what is currently in place? The system needs to change or the County needs to improve the response standards or nothing will change except the uniforms of the ambulance providers wear. Also there is this little thing called 201 rights that needs to be considered.
MAC March 28, 2012 at 03:54 AM
Joh Q... At least you get it! BTW... Billing rates are also county approved... BUT! Let's just say you can charge $3000 for ambulance transportation to a local hospital. All Medi-Cal will pay is around $150 (that figure may be high). That's it. It could be for a stubbed toe or a 12" butcher knife hanging out of someones chest. And by law, you CANNOT recover the balance. Medi-care pays a little more, and often times those on Medicare may have a secondary payer. Secondary payers rarely pay the entire balance. Then there's another whole different category of uncompensated care. I'm sure that is MILLIONS of dollars in lost revenue. And "For Profit"? So is the city. Code Enforcement ring a bell? Do you know that in the City of Murrieta you can get a $100 fine for leaving a portable basketball hoop on the sidewalk? True story... You know Joh... "That makes it hard for the trash truck to pick up your trash." When asked if I could park my car in the street legally without being fined, I was told "absolutely as long as it's registered". I said to the nice code enforcement officer... "Now wouldn't it be harder for the trash truck if my car was parked there? All I heard were crickets as she walked back to her cute little truck.
Kevin Clark March 28, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Go to www.//lgcr.sco.ca.gov/compensation. The State of California publishes this site which includes city salaries and multipliers( amounts needed out of current budget to provide for future obligations). Retiement pay for the MFD Employees is at a minimum 90% of their outgoing salary every month for life, and life time health benefits. The multiplier for every MFD employee is 3, so 3x thier "salary" is really what is needed out of the budget to fund these future obligations. $137,703.00, 129,578.00, $171,806.00 , $178,282, $177,631.00, $130,586.00 151,469.00, these are actual amounts paid to MFD employees for 2010. All tolled 44 Dept. employee were paid over 100,000.00 in 2010. To me this is an obscene abuse of tax funds. It is no wonder the fire dept. "councilman" and chief have to disparage the abulance co.? True compitition would kill the cash cow.

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