San Diego

Ambulance Response Times, EMT Pay Hang in Balance with Prop 11

A “yes” vote would require companies to pay EMTs and paramedics to remain on-call during lunch and other work breaks

When emergencies happen, seconds can be the difference between life and death, and the Yes on Proposition 11 campaign is concerned ambulance response times could increase if the proposition fails.

"Private EMTs and paramedics respond to 75 percent of the state's 911 calls. That's why it's critical they’re reachable and paid to be reachable during their breaks," said Yes on 11 spokeswoman Marie Brichetto.

In 2016, the California Supreme Court ruled that private security guards must be given uninterrupted break time. But private ambulance companies were unable to agree with unions over how to comply with the ruling and implement it.

So the ambulance companies drafted Prop 11 to maintain the status quo.

A “yes” would mean companies like American Medical Response (AMR) would pay EMTs and paramedics to remain on-call during lunch and other work breaks.

“This is all about savings,” said Jason Bollino, Executive Director of the United EMS Workers, AFSCME Local 4911.

Bollino isn’t just a union head, he’s also retiring from working on an AMR ambulance after 25 years. He supports a “no” vote on Proposition 11, calling the measure nothing more than a way for private ambulance companies to become exempt from current labor laws and avoid the cost of several pending lawsuits.

“They’re going to save the potential exposure of liability," said Bollino.

The California Nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office says complying with the ruling would increase ambulance companies’ costs by nearly $100 million each year, statewide.

If Prop 11 fails, the Legislative Analyst's Office notes ambulance companies might have to charge more for services and lengthen response times.

The head of the United EMS Union says if Prop 11 fails, they'll work with state lawmakers to find a way to keep their radios on during breaks so they can still respond to calls.

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