City Fines Ambulance Company for Missing Response Time Goals

City documents show Rural Metro is not meeting response time goals

The city of San Diego is fining its ambulance contractor, Rural Metro, $230,000 for failing to meet emergency response-time requirements, according to a city compliance report.

The company's contract with the city requires its ambulances to arrive at high-priority medical emergency calls within 12 minutes at least 90 percent of the time.

Documents released to NBC 7 Investigates show Rural Metro has not met that 90 percent mark during the last three months. According to the report, ambulances arrived within the 12 minute time window 87 percent of the time.

In the last fiscal year, the city saw a spike in 911 medical calls, receiving 123,000 calls -- higher than normal.

This year, the San Diego Fire Department had a problem tracking response times in the first part of the year because of computer glitches.

“Beginning in April and May of this year, we realized we were having some response time data issues popping up,” Fire Chief Javier Manier said. “It was showing ambulances arriving at the incident before they were ever dispatched, and so on.”

That issue, first reported by NBC 7 Investigates, came from a time stamp issue.

“This is really nothing more than two different technical systems that weren’t looking at the same clock and began to drift apart,” Manier said in an interview with NBC7 Investigates on Sept. 30.

City Councilman David Alvarez said he is worried.

“The concern for me and I think other (council) members is that this has been a problem now, not just this last quarter, but probably for a long time, and the more this continues, the more lives are at risk, so it needs to be addressed immediately,” Alvarez said.

In response to questions from NBC 7 Investigates, Rural Metro responded by providing us a letter they sent to the Mayor this week saying it takes the issue seriously and has already implemented changes to improve performance.

Specifically, the letter said the company has added 130 hours, amounting to 13 10-hour shifts a week.

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