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Tough Competition for Ambulance Company Contracts

by Vickie Vértiz
It is starting to look like Riverside will now be allowing four new companies to provide non-emergency ambulance service in the city, reported The Press-Enterprise.
On Tuesday, December 15, the Rvierside City Council voted to give a four-year franchise to Orange-based Care Ambulance and to send three other applications from companies to public hearings on January 6, which is the last step before getting approvals. The companies were identified as Carson-based AmeriCare Ambulance, Mission Ambulance, and Cavalry Ambulance, the latter are both based in Corona.
The decision means that, for AMR, their control over the ambulance market is ending. Many in the business, said the paper, have called their business “a de facto monopoly.” AMR also provides 911 ambulances through a nearly-exclusive contract with Riverside County, added the Enterprise. While emergency calls are processed by the county, but outside Riverside, the non-emergency ambulance business is a wide open market with many providers.
The votes were nearly unanimous, but Councilman Chris Mac Arthur dissented each of the four times while Councilman Jim Perry voted against approving AmeriCare. However, another councilman, Paul Davis, actually recused himself from voting on AmeriCare.
Mac Arthur stated that he did not believe a case had been made that proved a need for more ambulance companies. He added to the paper that the municipal code requires that this kind of need be shown before granting entry to additional franchises.
The councilman also said he worried the city will “lose money that AMR pays them to get longer emergency response times” according to the Enterprise. That funding totals approximately $1.5 million per year and helps fund the paramedics in the City of Riverside. Normally, they are the ones who first respond in an emergency.
The paper quoted Riverside Fire Chief Michael Moore: Even though that funding is not connected to non-emergency ambulance service, Mac Arthur still remained concerned about the agreement with AMR. He thinks it will lead to a change in response times and funding.
“Their contract [is] up in June and I [am] not sure that they [are] going to want the same deal that they have now,” he told the paper.
Mac Arthur added that he had never heard a complaint about the service provided by AMR. However, it was reported that in the Enterprise that several hospital officials have repeatedly told the council more companies will help reduce patient waiting times and costs. Additionally, several council members have said their constituents support more options, which is supposed to provide more competitive pricing in an open market.
“The public [is] demanding it,” said Councilman Mike Soubirous to the paper. “We have to do what [is] right for the people.”
Councilman Steve Adams requested that a report be generated in six months on how the new system is working now that additional companies will be offering competition and service. Finally, the paper added that Moore said the city can cancel a franchise after a year for any reason, especially if the change in service is ineffective in lowering wait times.

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