Ambulances may be placed on life-support

The county’s fire board could spend $500,000 — more than half its reserves — to keep an ambulance operating in Woodside and bail Pacifica out of its obligation to staff a coastside ambulance it has operated for a decade.

San Mateo County’s ambulance service is overseen by the county Fire Services Joint Powers Authority, which secured a 10-year contract in 1998 under which American Medical Response pays the JPA $4 million per year for the exclusive right to shuttle patients to local hospitals, according to Barbara Pletz, director of the county’s Emergency Medical Services Department. Under that contract, Woodside, Pacifica, Half Moon Bay and Menlo Park each staffed one of AMR’s ambulances with their own paramedics.

Since then, however, rising costs have led Menlo Park and Half Moon Bay to pull out (in 2004 and 2006, respectively). Pacifica intends to stop staffing its ambulance in September, according to NorthCounty Fire Battalion Chief Steven Brandvold.

However, the Woodside Fire Department has asked for more money to keep staffing its ambulance, according to Woodside Fire Chief Armando Muela.

“Our district, being that it’s all rural and remote areas, was seeing ambulance response times of 20 minutes,” Muela said.

Because Woodside responds only to 3,000 emergency medical calls per year, AMR might not replace that ambulance if Woodside backed out. And without a local ambulance, response times could drop again, according to Larry Olson, chairman of the 17-member JPA.

The JPA was paying Woodside $176,000 a year to staff the ambulance, according to Muela, who estimates that the service costs the Woodside Fire Department $750,000 per year. Under a new, tentative deal, the JPA has offered to pay Woodside an additional $153,000 per year, and pay Pacifica $101,000 to allay that city’s paramedic-related financial crisis.

However, it counted on AMR to pay a portion of that money, and AMR has refused, Olson said.

“Right now, it’s difficult for us to make our money back on our contract with the JPA,” said Jason Sorrick, a spokesman for AMR. “We make our money solely on the billing of the patients we transport.”

In the coming weeks, the JPA will determine whether to foot the entire bill — more than $500,000 during two years — out of its reserves, which hold only between $800,000 and $900,000 now, according to Olson.

Those reserves are typically used for maintenance and upgrades, such as to the fire authorities’ radio communications system, as well as to cover any accident liabilities.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Recology executives have acknowledged overcharging city ratepayers. (Mira Laing/2017 Special to S.F. Examiner)
Recology to repay customers $95M in overcharged garbage fees, city attorney says

San Francisco’s waste management company, Recology, has agreed to repay its customers… Continue reading

A construction worker watches a load for a crane operator at the site of the future Chinatown Muni station for the Central Subway on Tuesday, March 3, 2021. (Sebastian Miño-Bucheli / Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Major construction on Central Subway to end by March 31

SFMTA board approves renegotiated contract with new deadline, more contractor payments

(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Settlement clears path for all youth, high school sports to resume in California

John Maffei The San Diego Union-Tribune All youth and high school sports… Continue reading

State to reserve 40 percent of COVID-19 vaccines for hard-hit areas

By Eli Walsh Bay City News Foundation State officials said Thursday that… Continue reading

Neighbors and environmental advocates have found the Ferris wheel in Golden Gate Park noisy and inappropriate for its natural setting. <ins>(</ins>
Golden Gate Park wheel wins extension, but for how long?

Supervisors move to limit contract under City Charter provision requiring two-thirds approval

Most Read