SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — An amendment that will allow Falck -- San Diego’s ambulance provider -- to subcontract with another ambulance company will move forward after being presented to the San Diego City Council’s Public Safety committee Friday.
The committee voted 4-0 to send the proposal to the full City Council for a vote at a later date.
According to the amendment, the city will also be able to begin collection of medical billing for ground emergency ambulance transport patients.
Falck was contracted to provide 900 ALS unit hours per day, but it was consistently falling short of that requirement, as Team 10 has reported over the past several months.
If the amendment is approved, “Falck must staff a minimum weekly average of 5,460 ALS unit hours,” according to the proposal document.
According to a Falck spokesperson, there will no longer be a penalty for falling below 900 hours.
“Penalties can be assessed based on falling short of either the 700 daily minimum or the 5,460 weekly figure,” a spokesperson told Team 10.
Falck released the following statement to Team 10:
“Falck is committed to the health and safety of all San Diegans. In 2022, we staffed more paramedic ambulance hours in San Diego than ever before, and despite the national shortage of healthcare workers, we continue to grow our staffing. Together with the Fire-Rescue Department, we support the proposed contract amendment, which will enable us to further invest in our workforce and respond to rising 911 call volumes in the City. Having the City collect payments takes advantage of a new California law that will allow for higher reimbursement rates from Medi-Cal, which can be used to fund additional system improvements.”
Prior to the Friday meeting, San Diego Fire-Rescue Chief Colin Stowell told Team 10:
“We have negotiated a proposed agreement with Falck that will allow San Diego Fire-Rescue to better serve our residents. Under this new ‘alliance model’, the City of San Diego will take control of staffing, ambulance deployment and patient billing. We will be able to set our own service levels to improve response times and better serve the community. By taking control of patient billing, we believe we will be in a better position to re-coup costs and operate more efficiently.”
Falck took over the contract from AMR in late 2021. While it is unclear how many hours AMR could receive under this new proposal, the company's regional director said they are prepared. "Prior to being replaced by Falck in November 2021, American Medical Response (AMR) had a long and successful history providing EMS to the City of San Diego," said Kevin Mercer, AMR's Regional Director for the San Diego County and Imperial County region.
"We stand ready to support the City as it attempts to stabilize the current EMS system. Our support includes providing additional ALS ambulance coverage," Mercer wrote in an email to Team 10.