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.