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October 26, 2010 > County negotiating ambulance contract

County negotiating ambulance contract

Submitted By Gwendolyn Mitchell and Laurel Anderson

Staff is in negotiations with Rural/Metro Corporation as the exclusive provider of 911 Emergency Medical Ambulance Services in Santa Clara County.

The State requires counties in California with an Exclusive Operating Area (EOA) for ambulance services, like Santa Clara County, to undertake a competitive Request For Proposals (RFP) approximately every 10 years. The County's RFP was developed with significant stakeholder input and submitted to the State Emergency Medical Services Authority for approval, prior to implementation.

Credentials of the respondents to the RFP were screened to ensure they met baseline criteria including financial viability and operational capacity to serve the population. Only two proposals were submitted - from AMR, the existing provider, and from Rural/Metro Corporation.

The Rural/Metro proposal received the top rating and the company was recommended by the eight-member RFP Committee.

The potential loss of the contract by its current holder AMR, resulted in protests and a call for additional review by a number of outside parties, including the City of San Jose.

"Although there are differences in the two corporations, there is no evidence to substantiate Rural/Metro cannot perform up to the standards of the contract, as they do around the nation," said County Executive Jeffrey V. Smith. "We have conducted an extensive review of their operating and financial capability and are satisfied that they can meet our requirements."

The same sentiments were echoed by Supervisor Don Gage, who supported moving forward with the contract negotiations.

Among the concerns expressed by more than 40 speakers, was the potential loss of jobs. At Supervisor Dave Cortese's request, a spokesperson for Rural/Metro indicated that the company guarantees retaining current employees, who meet employment standards, at their same pay rates or better.

Rural/Metro has proposed to increase the number of weekly unit hours from approximately 4,300 to 5,292. This change will put more ambulances on the streets.

Rural/Metro also proposed utilizing a state-of-the-art automated vehicle location system, which will integrate with the County's computer aided dispatch system. The system will provide real-time analysis of historical call data, current ambulance location and traffic congestion. Together, this information will aid in the efficient management of ambulance resources to ensure that the high call volume areas can be covered by available ambulances.

The City of San Jose opposed the County's intent to proceed with negotiations with Rural/Metro based on their proposed "Strategic Alliance" with AMR that would have provided a $1M reimbursement to offset the cost of first responder services. The County expressed concerns that reliance on such City resources could lead to a fragmented system throughout the county.

Supervisor George Shirakawa did not support the AMR/City of San Jose proposal because of the possibility fragmentation would drive up the cost for the county. In addition, he was disappointed by the misinformation about Rural/Metro's ability to perform.

"If we were to be influenced by these practices, the County would lose the ability to leverage its resources in a way that is in the best interest of the community," Shirakawa said.

Kniss and Yeager did not vote for moving forward with the negotiations due to the considerable differences in the two proposals.

"The Rural/Metro proposal promises excellent quality at a lower cost for taxpayers," Cortese said.

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