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Council Resolution Demands Competitive Ambulance Bid

Murrieta city council members Tuesday called for a one-year notice of termination of American Medical Response's contract and for the bid process to start within that time.

In an ongoing saga, Murrieta city council confirmed its stance Tuesday that Riverside County should put its ambulance provider contract out to competitive bid.

"This was for our council to make a formal stance; let's formalize it so that it's known," said Murrieta city Councilman Alan Long, after Tuesday's meeting during which a resolution calling for an open bid was unanimously approved.

Council members called for a one-year notice of termination of American Medical Response's contract and for the bid process to start within that time.

"That would be plenty of time to redesign the system," Long said, noting competition would ensure that when residents "are at their worst and when they are in dire need of life-saving saving medical care," they are getting the best.

Under a contract with Riverside County Emergency Services Agency, the ambulance provider has been exclusively operating in 95 percent of the county for more than two decades. AMR is dispatched to emergency medical calls along with fire department paramedics, and is reimbursed for transports through insurance and private payments.

Having little say in the matter, Murrieta city council states a bid would be in the best interest of citizens and would improve the county's system.

Riverside and San Bernardino were among the last two counties in Southern California not to hold a competitive bid, according to Long. This was until last month, when San Bernardino moved to reassess its emergency service coverage. As a result, its contract will be put out to bid.

unless they choose to or undergo significant changes to their emergency medical services plan, a state official told Patch this week.

"If a local EMS agency (designated by the county) wants an ambulance zone to be exclusive, they have two options," said June Iljana, deputy director of policy, legislation and external affairs for Emergency Medical Services Authority of California.

"First, they can determine a zone has been operating in the same manner and scope since 1981 and submit it to the state Emergency Medical Services Authority as exclusive as part of their EMS Plan," Iljana said. "The second option is to send the zone out for competitive bid. The local EMS agency has the sole ability to decide whether to do that or not."

Long contests that Riverside County has made changes over the years that should have required it.

He reiterated that the council's stance is not an attack on AMR.

"It has to do with the county’s contract and the Emergency Medical System. AMR just happens to be the one that operates under that," Long said. "Simply going out to bid is good policy. Bottom line, if a provider is grossing $100 million a year, you should go out to bid. And if that window-cleaning service happens to provide the best service they would get the contract again."

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors would have to approve a competitive bid process. Murrieta city council hopes its latest resolution will encourage them to do so, as AMR's current contract expires at the end of this month.

"It is about good, transparent government," Long said. "The competition would would ensure residents are getting the most for their money."

An AMR representative told Patch this week that the company is seeking a five-year extension with the county. As part of that, AMR would foot the bill for upgrading radio and dispatch systems countywide.

It costs AMR $52 million a year to run its system in Riverside County, according to Jason Sorrick, director of government affairs for AMR.

"We also provide $49 million in uncompensated care," Sorrick said. "So when we want to invest in the system we certainly want to know the county is going to maintain our contract."

When AMR faced criticism over its response times in Murrieta, i to cover the city.

Mary June 07, 2012 at 02:59 AM
Roy Boy, you've been in your hole too long. Look further than then this hole and you'll find the City is being sued for letting the small land owner off the hook from MSHCP donations. And of course, now the taxpayer is on the hook to pay to fight the suit for a some land owner's that didn't do their homework 10 years ago. And of course, since you aren't a Murrieta taxpayer, why would you care except for the fact you are able to see your name in print all the while spewing lies.
MAC June 07, 2012 at 04:00 AM
All anyone has to do is look at the contract the county has with AMR. AMR is guaranteed a 3 year extension (from July 2012) already; regardless if the county ultimately decides to go out to bid or not. Alan Long clearly has ulterior motives, as does the chief. It has nothing to do for the best price or "service". It has to do with how much money they can get from the next provider be it AMR or another company. That's why the fire chief has contacted other large PRIVATE providers directly and asked them to bid. He wants to negotiate dollars for his city only. He'll support whoever gives him the most $$$$. The city should contract with Cal Fire. Much better department with so much more to offer, and for way less money. This council has ZERO integrity. Especially the Mayor who does not return phone calls as promised.
J.R. June 07, 2012 at 06:16 AM
The resolution that the council just passed states they support seeking the most cost effective and efficient ambulance provider. Im not an accountant but I don't see how FREE service is the most cost effective service for the city! Sure you pay for the service if you use it but that's still better than paying an annual fee to the fire dept on top of my taxes for a service I might use. The city isn't paying for an ambulance service in fact they are paid rent and fines by the ambulance company so really the city is profiting. Additionally the council cites the city raised specific concerns such as response times, continuity of care, familiarity with the city, and staffing issues as reasons for the resolution. I do believe that a recent article posted that AMR has a better response time than our fire dept. which leads me to believe the ambulance company IS obviously familiar with the city, possibly even more familiar than the fire dept. since they apparently get to calls faster leading me to the conclusion that there isn't a problem with the continuity of care. As far as staffing issues it wasn't long ago that the city closed a fire station. I think it was the fire dept who faces criticism about their response times which led AMR to add an additional unit to the city to provide citizens with a higher level of service than that which the fire dept can provide as they fail to meet the response time criteria set forth by the fire chief.
J.R. June 07, 2012 at 06:17 AM
Additionally I am all for a competitive bidding process to save the citizens if Murrieta money. I think the bidding should be for fire service! I think CalFire would be more than happy to provide the same or perhaps better service than the city currently has for a fraction of the cost. Norco and Banning both converted, not sure why Murrieta thinks they're above it all. So if the council wants a bid I say they bid it all, let's see who's really costing the city money. I'm sure it's not the ambulance provider who has the better response times!
Mary June 07, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Heard and understanding is 3rd hand and how rumors get started. Firsthand knowledge is when you are present when the parties in question publically thank the council for passing the policy, then confirming their thanks by personally talking to those same parties afterwards. The legality of that policy is now what will be determined in court.
Jon Smit June 13, 2012 at 11:29 PM
If Murrieta goes with MFD ambulances and not AMR they will bankrupt in a matter of years, maybe months. Everyone knows cities with their own ambulances lose money if they don't transport. As J.R. said, Cal Fire will provide the same service, if not better, at a fraction of the cost. Murrieta has a BIG city mentality with a backwoods budget.
Jeff June 14, 2012 at 02:30 AM
Do not believe for one minute that the city is looking out for your best interest. Competitive bidding does nothing as the County of Riverside sets the response times, fines and fees that an ambulance company can charge. AMR does not set any of these fines or standards so what benefit would bidding create? It's only benefit is that ambulance company that is bidding and what that company is willing to cut the City of Murrieta in a backdoor agreement.

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