San Diego's new ambulance provider preps to take over Thanksgiving weekend
Falck USA has met nearly all of the city's three dozen criteria, which includes hiring 360 paramedics and EMTs, and securing new ambulances and technology
The San Diego Union-Tribune
SAN DIEGO — San Diego's new ambulance provider is in a strong position to take over Nov. 27 thanks to significant progress in recent weeks on a long list of city requests, officials said this week.
After raising significant concerns about the takeover in September by failing to meet some city demands, Falck USA has rallied to satisfy nearly all the city's three dozen criteria.
The progress includes hiring 360 paramedics and emergency medical technicians, securing a few dozen new ambulances and acquiring the technology and equipment required for a smooth transition, city officials said.
"In September, I was getting nervous," Councilmember Raul Campillo told his colleagues on the council's Public Safety Committee Wednesday. "I'm really encouraged by the numbers."
Councilmember Stephen Whitburn agreed. "This is good progress."
The takeover will come after a six-month transition period the council approved last spring, when it chose to replace longtime ambulance provider American Medical Response with Falck based on promises of better response times.
Falck has said it will increase daily ambulance hours across the city from 840 to 1,008.
That many hours will require 134 paramedics and 174 EMTs, numbers Falck has exceeded with 139 paramedics and 222 EMTs.
But when one factors in vacations and workers calling in sick, Falck needs 192 EMTS and 148 paramedics. That gives the company 30 extra EMTS, but leaves it nine paramedics short.
City and Falck officials said job interviews continue for paramedics and that enough may be hired in time. But they also said hiring is likely to remain a challenge in a tight labor market.
Of the 222 EMTS, 165 are working for the city under AMR, and 57 have been hired from outside. Of the 139 paramedics, 122 are working for the city under AMR, and 17 have been hired from outside.
On ambulances, 58 of the 65 needed by Falck have arrived in San Diego and are being equipped. Seven more are expected to arrive next week.
The one area where Falck hasn't yet satisfied city officials is fully connecting a communications system between ambulances, city fire officials and dispatchers.
But Falck officials and Deputy Fire Chief Jodie Pierce said they are confident any kinks will be worked out by the Thanksgiving weekend transition.
"There's just minor tweaks that need to happen," said Pierce, who is overseeing the transition.
Pierce said the transition is a complicated and monumental change.
"The city is 16 days away from the start of a new era in emergency services in our communities," she said. "It's been over 20 years since the city embarked on a transition of this magnitude."
As part of the transition, Falck received federal approval to disburse narcotics last month and recently reached a new labor deal with ambulance dispatchers.
Falck is a Danish company that handles ambulance service in many cities and counties around the world, including Orange, Los Angeles and Alameda counties in California.
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