Council to review Falck ambulance services amid EMT recruitment challenges

fake ambulance
A Falck ambulance for San Diego. Courtesy of the company

An update on the city’s new ambulance service is due before a San Diego City Council committee this week amid ongoing company staffing challenges and critical news reports.

The review prepared for the Committee on Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods is required as part of the city’s contract with Falck Mobile Health Corporation, which replaced longtime provider American Medical Response last November.

It’s been a rocky start since the contract was approved in June. There have been editorials and news stories criticizing early efforts. Officials from the Fire and Rescue Department were also unhappy.

In a May 5 letter to the council committee, Fire Chief Colin Stowell said the company is having trouble finding staff. It’s a problem that has plagued Falck since the beginning of his service in San Diego.

Monica Muñoz, manager of media services for the city, said that Falck continues to have problems, but “they are working on it.” She also had good news.

“To our knowledge, no one who has called 9-1-1 and needed medical assistance has been denied that help,” he said. “We are in the process of reviewing and verifying the data from the first months of its operation.”

Falck’s Jeff Lucia did not dispute the criticism. He said he knows they’re short-staffed, but they’re working on the problem, explaining that the company has “made ongoing investments in double pay plus bonuses for paramedics and EMTs working extra shifts, along with extensive recruiting bonuses.” and hiring of up to $12,000 for paramedics and referral bonuses of up to $6,000”.

“Our response time performance in San Diego has shown steady improvement since February, when Omicron’s surge began to taper off, and we have met or exceeded contractual response time requirements for all priority levels in all zones since early April.” Lucia added.

TThe company could face penalties for its previous setbacks, according to Stowell’s letter to the committee. “The Fire and Rescue Department is finalizing the sanction methodology as well as the final analysis of response data to determine Falck’s performance in the last quarter,” he wrote.

Munoz said a monetary fine could potentially be imposed, but “that has not been finalized yet.”

The emergency services update is on the agenda for the council committee meeting on Tuesday, May 18.

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