SAN DIEGO — The struggle to improve ambulance services in the City of San Diego continues.

But Friday, the city took another step towards putting more ambulances on the street.

The Public Safety Committee approved a contract amendment between the city and emergency services company Falck, which has faced ongoing problems with response times and staffing shortages after signing a contract with the city in 2021.

The proposed amendment calls for an alliance model – allowing Falck to contract with other ambulance companies to help pick up the slack.

Falck officials say they already have a deal in place with AMR to sub-contract four ambulances with for 12-hour shifts seven days a week.

Falck USA Chief Commercial Officer Troy Hagen said the amendment makes sense for the city as the company tries to hire more paramedics.

“To deliver this type of service we desire in San Diego, we must all work together and pool our resources. Despite not meeting the contracted ALS hours, to date Falck provided more ambulance hours than the City of San Diego has ever had before. We realize that’s not good enough. You have my personal commitment that under this new model we will continue to make all efforts to meet your expectations,” Hagen said during the committee meeting.

The city will also look at a second amendment to help get ambulances to patients faster.

San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Chief Colin Stowell said the city needs to take a new approach.

“This first amendment is needed immediately so we can stabilize the EMS system — allow the subcontracting to take place to bring in additional unit hours while we work towards the second amendment that we expect to be able to bring to committee and to council sometime in the summer,” said Stowell.

This deal would also give the city control over ambulance deployment, staffing and patient billing.

Since getting the contract, Falck has paid roughly $3 million in response time penalties to the city.

“I really don’t want Falck to be paying penalties to the city. I want the services to be provided, so if we have to use the penalties for non-compliance to allow us to pay for more ambulances through a subcontractor, that is completely fine with me,” said City Councilmember Marni von Wilpert.