City’s ambulance provider scrambles to improve response times

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SAN DIEGO -- The city of San Diego’s primary ambulance provider is scrambling to hire more paramedics and add shifts after the city uncovered they aren’t getting to the scene fast enough.

By contract, Rural Metro Corp. needs to be at all calls within 12 minutes 90 percent of the time. Right now, they’re at 80 percent.

“We do have concerns about it. We want to see a plan. Is this a crisis? We hope not, but it is a red flag,” said Marti Emerald, who chairs the city’s Public Safety Committee.

Emerald is also one of the city leaders who, during Wednesday afternoon’s council meeting, will be holding Rural Metro Corp.’s feet to the flame.

“Is it a breach of contract? Well, they’re not living up to the terms. We’re keeping a close eye on this. We’re not willing to sit back and accept it. We want these numbers improved,” she said.

"We understand the importance of meeting response-time requirements and are sparing no expense to rectify the situation with the utmost urgency,” Regional Director Wayne Johnson wrote in a letter to city officials.

Earlier this month, the city fined the company $230,000 for failing to meet required response times. The company said it plans to offer double-time pay to current employees, add more than 5,000 hours of service per week and $3,000 signing bonuses to qualified applicants.

Rural Metro Corp. has been providing ambulance service to the city of San Diego since 1997. In June, the City Council approved a five-year extension to its existing agreement without putting the contract out to competitive bid.

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