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December 31, 2010 > County chooses qualified Emergency Medical Service Provider

County chooses qualified Emergency Medical Service Provider

By Supervisor Dave Cortese

When I was a boy, living on my family's farm, a fire started on the bank of Thompson Creek. The fire spread very quickly, setting fire to my home. My family counted on the fire department to arrive quickly to save our home and our lives. Many years later, my youngest son was crawling through the house and found some coins under a couch. Like a typical toddler, he put the coins in his mouth. Before I knew it, he was choking. We called 9-1-1 and waited on pins and needles for the paramedics to arrive to save him. Even now it gives me chills to think about what could have happened. I have been very lucky and fully understand the importance of having a great emergency response team, firefighters and paramedics.

These thoughts have been swimming through my mind over the past few months, as Santa Clara County has been choosing a new emergency medical service provider to serve you for the next five years. I am happy to announce that the Board of Supervisors has selected Rural Metro, the second largest emergency service provider in the nation. They provide excellent service, including in San Diego, a community similar in many respects to our own. Now that the contract has been signed, I would like to share with you some of the great things you can expect from Rural Metro, and clarify some of the issues that you might have heard about the selection process.

The selection process began two years ago with a series of "best practices" meetings where ambulance providers from around the nation told us about their best programs and services. County staff also met with the cities and firefighters, to talk about what they need in an emergency service provider. This information was used to write a formal Request for Proposals, an invitation to potential providers to submit proposals. Rural Metro and American Medical Response (AMR), the county's current emergency medical service provider, submitted proposals for consideration. Based on the proposals, Rural Metro received the highest score from the selection committee.

There was a big difference in the fees proposed by these two providers. Anyone from the Milpitas hills who gets transported during an emergency to Valley Medical Center, for example, would pay from $760 to $1160 more under AMR's proposal than under Rural Metro's proposal. Many insurance companies only cover a portion of the transportation costs and the patient has to pay the rest. With Rural Metro's new proposal, there will only be a slight increase in rates when compared to today's rate.

I realize that cost is not the only factor when making a life-or-death decision. In an emergency, you need an experienced paramedic to arrive in an advanced ambulance with the latest medical equipment. I carefully examined Rural Metro and its history. They have very high standards in their quality of care and their proposed business model is very much in line with the county's needs. I am pleased to tell you that the county was able to secure a strong contract with tight control over emergency medical service operations.

Rural Metro will also be helping to promote the community's health and wellness through their education and outreach efforts. They will be visiting schools to teach kids and teens about emergency medical services, calling 9-1-1, and to talk with teens about drunken driving. You will likely see Rural Metro in parades and out at community events. And they will be using the latest in social media to communicate with you.

Rural Metro also committed to giving special consideration to hiring AMR employees. Not just paramedics and technicians, but support staff, too. This is important because these front line workers know our county and what our residents need. Before approving the contract, I was told that Rural Metro would work hard to adapt their workforce to meet our culturally diverse community by reaching into the various ethnic communities in search of new employees. There will also be fewer 24-hour shifts than we have through our current ambulance company.

I know that one day my family may be in a life-threatening situation, requiring emergency medical assistance again. Like you, I want to know that my loved ones will be cared for with quality and compassion. I firmly believe that Rural Metro will provide excellent service to us all, if we ever need to call them. If you have any questions about emergency medical service in our county, please contact me at (408) 299-5030 or dave.cortese@bos.sccgov.org.

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