Alameda Co. votes to switch ambulance services

April 27, 2010 6:48:30 PM PDT
Ambulance service is critical in every community, but especially so in Oakland since it is one of the most violent cities in the country. On Tuesday, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors took a big step forward handing ambulance service over to an out-of-state company.

The job of getting to the scene within minutes and saving lives in Alameda County could soon go to a Texas company.

"Our Paramedics Plus operation in Alameda County will be more Alameda County than it will be Texas," says Paramedics Plus president Tony Myers.

Paramedics Plus is the company the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to begin negotiating with for ambulance services.

That is despite pleas from more than 100 paramedics who packed the board chambers warning the county against severing ties with American Medical Response. AMR has run ambulance operations in Alameda County for 40 years.

"Just short of Armageddon, AMR's going to be there. And when you need another unit, you won't have to go to east Texas to get it," said AMR paramedic Millard Starling.

Supervisors had concerns about the fate of AMR's 450 employees.

"I've got letters from people that are saying that I'm bringing a bunch of Texans in and laying off a bunch of Alameda County residents," said Supervisor Scott Haggerty.

But Paramedics Plus promises not to lay off workers. County officials have refused to make public the two companies' bids, but insiders say Paramedics Plus submitted a lower bid for providing ambulance care.

First responders like Alameda County fire chiefs sided with the Texas firm.

"We've been trying for years to bring a higher level of care to Alameda County residents," said Hayward Fire Chief Craig Bueno.

Alameda County has some of the toughest regulations on ambulances around the Bay Area.

In Oakland, ambulances are required to respond to 911 calls within at least 10 minutes and 30 seconds, 90 percent of the time. If that doesn't happen, the ambulance company could be fined.

"You have a known entity that you can deal with, versus not knowing what you may be getting and taking a chance. Ultimately the people that will suffer are the residents of Alameda County," says AMR paramedic Mike Dutra.

The new contract would not take effect until 2011.


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