San Diego restarts bidding process after ambulance service protests replacement

Controversy arose after the city selected Denmark-based Falck to replace American Medical Response

Jeff McDonald
The San Diego Union-Tribune

SAN DIEGO — Weeks after San Diego's long-time ambulance provider formally protested a decision by the city to enter into exclusive negotiations with a rival company, the city apparently has ended the discussions and said it plans to start the bidding process over.

Aides to Mayor Kevin Faulconer declined to respond to questions, but a senior executive of the would-be contractor is complaining about the decision to end the negotiations -- and is now considering suing the city.

"Ultimately, Falck is determined to be the best choice to serve San Diego, and we will be exploring all of our options, including legal action, to determine the best path forward," Falck executive Troy Hagen said in a statement.

The city announced last month that a selection committee had chosen Falck, the largest provider of emergency medical services in the world, to take over operation of the ambulance system in San Diego later this year.

"They're the biggest ambulance company in the world," San Diego Fire-Rescue Chief Colin Stowell said at the time. "They are just not well known here."

But American Medical Response, or AMR, the national company that now provides medical transport services across San Diego, objected to the selection and filed an eight-page protest letter with the city.

Among other things, AMR complained that the city's bidding process was defective and said Falck did not meet the minimum standards required to compete for the job. AMR also accused Falck of having a spotty response-time record.

Hagen rejected those assertions. According to the Falck executive, city officials reversed course and decided to issue a new round of bids for the job based on undue pressure from AMR.

"Unfortunately, threats of litigation and delay tactics are often used to wear down competitors and municipalities," Hagen wrote in a statement.

A spokesman for AMR said the company is pleased with the city decision to open a new round of bidding.

The city's existing contract with AMR ends June 30. Under the current deal, AMR pays San Diego $10.7 million a year to transport patients to hospitals. In 2015, AMR bought Rural/ Metro, which had been operating San Diego ambulances since 1997.


©2020 The San Diego Union-Tribune

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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