If you are seriously injured and need to be taken to hospital immediately, waiting 20 to 40 minutes could be the difference between life and death.
But Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department firefighter and union president Joe McThorn told The Weekly that he witnessed this first-hand last week — and it wasn’t the first time it happened.
“I just got back from four days of work,” he said. “Five, actually six, of the calls I’ve had, the Falck ambulance response time was over 20 minutes and the other two were over 40 minutes. These are critically injured and sick people, it’s become the norm.”
Europe-based ambulance company Falck, through its local Northern California affiliate Falck, is the current ambulance contractor, providing transportation to many cities in Alameda County — excluding Berkeley, Alameda, Albany and Pittsburgh. Edmont, these cities use their own fire departments for emergency transport.
The for-profit ambulance company began operating in the county in 2019, providing 911 emergency service under authorization and contract award from the Alameda County Fire Department Board of Supervisors.
These include Livermore and Pleasanton, which are part of the county’s Exclusive Operating Area (EOA).
The primary day-to-day administration of the contract is the Alameda County Emergency Medical Services, which is part of the Alameda County Health Department.The Alameda County Fire Department is an independent department that provides services by contract to unincorporated Alameda County and several other jurisdictions.
With Falck’s current contract set to expire in mid-2024, the county fire department has announced plans to bid on the EOA when it releases a call for proposals around June. The RFP process will be led by Alameda County Health Services.
For LPFD, this means the department’s joint authority has an opportunity to discuss with the county fire department whether there is a way for LPFD to partner with the county to provide 911 service, should they win the bid.
This resulted in city managers from both Pleasanton and Livermore serving as co-executive directors of the LPFD, who seek approval from their respective councils to execute a joint letter of intent to negotiate the terms of the proposal for the request.
The Pleasanton City Council approved the Letter of Intent on its consent calendar last Tuesday, and Livermore will approve a similar resolution that will also be presented to the Livermore City Council on Monday as part of its consent calendar. a part of. Agreeing to items on the calendar is routine in nature and is usually approved without discussion.
Falck’s response time was also one of the main factors listed in the Pleasanton City Council staff agenda report as to why the county is evaluating its options to partner with another company.
“For a variety of reasons… at various points during the term of the contract, Falck had difficulty meeting its contractual obligations primarily related to ambulance response times,” the staff report said. “Falck was out of compliance in October, November, and December 2021, so Alameda County placed Falck on a monitoring performance improvement plan designed to improve response times.”
McThorn, president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 1974, which represents firefighters working for the LPFD, said that while Falck has made some improvements, the county deserves better.
“Falck has implemented some changes,” McThorn said. “They hired non-union workers from out of state to supplement the staffing shortage. It’s a slight improvement, it still falls short of a real contractual agreement.”
With the letter of intent, he said, he hoped the LPFD would have the opportunity to take matters into its own hands.
“What we’re trying to do with the letter of intent is work with the Alameda County Fire Department, which is a larger agency, and then contract with them (so) we have our own ambulances in Livermore and Pleasanton , just covering our community,” McThorne said. “Heyward and Fremont want to do that too.”
But unfortunately, that’s unlikely to happen, according to LPFD Fire Chief Joe Testa.
“I don’t expect Alameda County to rescind the EOA that allows cities to bid for services. So, the LPFD (Joint Powers Agency) and the cities of Livermore and Pleasanton are not prepared to respond to the RFP,” Testa said.
In addition to looking for ways to work with the county fire department on future contracts, the LPFD is working with Falck to find ways to improve service on current contracts, he said.
But as Alameda County’s fire marshal, fire department and local firefighters union work to overhaul the entire emergency response system, they’re not sure whether Falck will bid on the county’s next contract and the new one that comes with it. model.
“This new model generally appears to be similar to that in Contra Costa County, where the county fire department contracts with a private ambulance provider (not yet identified) to provide primary response service to cities within the county,” the crew report said. “This model is more financially viable than the current model because the cost recovery rate (statutory) for public entities is higher than for private providers.”
But McThorn said he remained convinced the LPFD should subcontract ambulance services.
The department has asked the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and Alameda County Emergency Medical Services for years to consider the possibility, but has been denied and has not responded to requests for information, he said.
But that’s not allowed under state regulations, according to Jerry Landrup, communications director for Alameda County Health Care Services.
“It is important to note that state law and California Emergency Medical Services Administration regulations state that a local EMS agency (LEMSA) may operate an exclusive operating area — a provider responsible for ambulance service in that area — in a local medical The benefits of the system and procurement requirements for each state’s guidance,” Landrup said in an email to The Weekly.
“By granting exclusive authority to provide ambulance transport services within an exclusive operating area, LEMSA can compel selected ambulance providers to serve all areas within the area, including remote rural and low-income Disproportionate access to health care is observed to a certain extent,” Landrup added. “Allowing the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department to operate EMS ambulance transportation in its district violates the exclusivity granted to Falck and is inconsistent with the county’s commitment to maintaining ambulance services that provide a fair level of service to all residents.”
All in all, it is unclear what the negotiations between LPFD and ACFD to refine the tender proposal and the terms and conditions of local participation in the model will look like. But regardless of the outcome, McThorn said he only wants to provide the proper emergency services that Pleasanton and Livermore residents deserve.
“Livermore-Pleasanton, Hayward, Fremont, Alameda County, Oakland and others never responded and got to the scene within a reasonable amount of time, and it’s our fault,” McThorn said. The community deserves it.” “So that’s what we want to do.”