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Murrieta to State Case at County Ambulance Workshop

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors is set for a Monday workshop, during which it will discuss the county's longstanding contract with American Medical Response. Murrieta officials have asked that the contract be placed out to bid.

Murrieta City Councilman Alan Long is among those expected to head to a Riverside County Board of Supervisors workshop Monday, where he plans to voice his concerns about emergency medical response in Murrieta and the rest of the county.

During the workshop, the Board of Supervisors are scheduled to evaluate Riverside County’s dispatch system for medical aid calls, as well discuss the county's contract with American Medical Response (AMR).

In addition to a resolution approved by Murrieta City Council that urges the Board of Supervisors to go out to bid on the county's long-held emergency services contract with AMR, Long plans to personally state his case.

He has two major concerns.

"The one issue is this contract has never gone out to bid since AMR has had it," Long said. "It is a matter of transparency and making sure that our residents are getting the most for their money. Without a competitive bid, you will never know that. Competition is the leverage that we have to ensure we are getting the most for our money.

"The other issue I have is the EMS (emergency management) system needs a lot of improvement. If you just automatically extend this contract, and then try to change the system they must work under, there is going to be a problem.

"Now is the time to put it out to bid."

Long contends that the residents of Murrieta deserve better than AMR's contracted response time of nine minutes, 59 seconds, 90 percent of the time. Although AMR has an average response time of six minutes, 50 seconds in Murrieta, Murrieta Fire Department paramedics have an average response time of six minutes, 30 seconds.

"Whether or not they are beating it 90 percent of the time, a 10-minute response time does not work," said Long, who works as a fire battalion chief in Anaheim, and previously worked for the Riverside Fire Department.

Long believes that the training Murrieta firefighters are required to undergo to become paramedics comes from taxpayers' pockets. While others cities in Riverside County get reimbursed from AMR for the training, Long said Murrieta doesn't.

"Murrieta has been asking for that for 15 years," Long said.

Because of this, he would rather see Murrieta--and eventually the rest of the county--go to a rapid response time system of under five minutes. This would require Murrieta be able to contract for its own ambulance services, or even provide them through its fire department in the future.

However, a state law passed in 1980 gave counties the authority over emergency medical services. Because of this, Murrieta would need county blessing to oversee its own system.

"We can't because of the way the law was written. It is a flawed issue," Long said.

In addition to Long's concerns--for which he has received City Council support--AMR and Murrieta Fire Department have been butting heads over a longtime lease at Murrieta fire stations. at two stations, but said last week

Fire department Spokesperson Matt Corelli said they'd like to get more than the $1,000 a month AMR has been paying per site for more than a decade, citing utility costs and wear and tear of bay doors and other equipment. An exhaust system designed to keep fumes out of the station has been broken off at least three times by ambulances as they exit, Corelli said. And bay doors cost $5,000 to replace, which on occasion have had to be.

"Sometimes there is normal wear and tear, and sometimes there is breakage," Corelli said.

"There is no angst, no superiority among crews in the station," Corelli said. "We cohabitate; it is a friendly coexistence.

"But it shouldn't cost the city money to house them. It should be enough money to handle the costs associated with it. It is the simple numbers. It is not like it is surplus money for our budget."

A spokesperson for AMR told Patch last week that the company tends to not lease space in urban areas because they prefer their crews are mobile to provide better response times.

However, Corelli said he knows of at least two other fire stations not in Murrieta--one in Temecula and one north of Lake Elsinore--that lease space to AMR.

Another dessention point was raised when AMR claimed it was not in agreement with a policy that Murrieta Fire Department has that requires ambulances to follow behind fire engines when responding to emergencies.

"The issue of following is not a policy, it is something that is done to secure the intersections," Corelli said, adding that 50 percent of the time they are not following engines from the station; they are responding from other locations."

The Board of Supervisors meeting starts at 9 a.m. at the county administrative building, 4080 Lemon Street, first floor, and includes a session during which the public can address the supervisors.

Rob October 16, 2011 at 04:37 PM
It has been a questionable monopoly since DAY ONE! END IT!

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