Debate Intensifies Over Public or Private Ambulance Services

By Brandi Powell and R. Stickney
|  Monday, Nov 4, 2013  |  Updated 4:32 AM PDT
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For 15 fiscal years, San Diego has partnered with the private sector to provide ambulance. Now, San Diego Fire-Rescue wants to take control of the ambulances services.

For 15 fiscal years, San Diego has partnered with the private sector to provide ambulance. Now, San Diego Fire-Rescue wants to take control of the ambulances services.

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For 15 years, San Diego has partnered with the private sector to provide ambulance services. Now, San Diego Fire-Rescue wants to take control of the ambulances.

Earlier this week, Interim Mayor Todd Gloria has decided to extend the contract with the private firm named Rural/Metro for an additional fiscal year.

San Diego Fire-Rescue chief wants to change the system so that he oversees the ambulances serving San Diegans.

Frank de Clercq, president SD Firefighters Local 145, argued in an appearance on NBC 7’s “Politically Speaking” that the reliability of the fire department makes it a perfect candidate to take ownership of the ambulance services.

“We want to provide the same level of service on the ambulances so we can have one in every neighborhood in these critical times and calls,” he said.

About 120,000 calls a year bring Rural/Metro ambulances to the scene of medical emergencies, taking people to the hospital three out of four times. In most cases, firefighters get there first, or take part in the response.

De Clercq said firefighters are often waiting for ambulances because in the private sector, it’s cheaper to park the ambulance, pay the penalty and overload the system.

Felipe Monroig, president of the SD County Taxpayers Association, said if San Diego Fire-Rescue assumes responsibility of the ambulance service, the decision needs to be discussed and decided in a slow, judicious manner.

The business-friendly group released a report just this week that concludes taxpayers would shell out an extra $37 million a year in lost franchise fees, start-up expenses, and costs for more ambulances and 321 new employees -- not counting untold rate fallout from the Affordable Care Act.

Monroig said there are a lot of unknowns included billing, staffing and liability.
 

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