NewsLocal News


Doubt cast over new San Diego ambulance company's promise of faster response times

falck ambulance san diego_4.png
Posted at 7:00 PM, Oct 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-06 12:50:15-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — The new ambulance service, Falck, is taking over as San Diego's provider in November, promising faster response times.

But one of its paramedics in Alameda County told ABC 10News don't count on it.

"They [Falck] just don't care. I was getting to a guy who was shot in the chest the other day and it took us 30 minutes to get there. It should take 10 minutes or less for a critical call," said Dominic Curcuruto, who represents Local 510.

RELATED: New ambulance service concerns for San Diego

He blamed the slow response times on a staffing shortage.

Alameda County contracts with Falck and reprimanded the Danish-based company in October. The county said the company responded to incidents less than 90% of the time, a violation of its contract. Oakland's fire chief sent a letter to the county demanding an investigation into response times, citing more than 450 instances where ambulances were delayed:

San Diego Fire Chief Colin Stowell said he's aware of the accusations in Alameda County but said every provider is struggling in the state.

"These problems are not unique to Oakland and Alameda County. We are seeing those response times up and down the state because of hospital staffing shortages. There is also a nationwide paramedic shortage and because of a nationwide chip shortage, there are not enough new ambulances," said Stowell.

Stowell said he expressed concerns to the San Diego City Council in September after Falck failed to meet deadlines to secure staffing, supplies, and ambulances. Stowell said he's confident the company will deliver on its promises and provide faster response times with 10 extra ambulances in its fleet and additional staffing. The company still needs to hire an additional 10 to 20 paramedics. It will not meet the promise of 66 new ambulances, but it will provide 33 new ambulances. The remaining others will be used vehicles until enough new ambulances become available next summer.

RELATED: San Diego City Council committee delays actions on ambulance contract

Falck spokesperson Jeff Lucia says the company will be ready to serve San Diego as promised on Nov. 27 with the appropriate number of staff and ambulances.

"Response times are a concern all over the country but there is a shortage of health care workers, it's happening all over the country. When our ambulances pull into a hospital sometimes they sit up to 4 to 5 hours because the hospitals are not equipped with staff. That ties up ambulances at the hospitals that could be responding to other emergencies. It's happening all over the country," said Lucia.