Posted on | May 10, 2012 | 1Comments

The word around Riverside City Hall in recent weeks was that a long-anticipated council workshop on the city’s ambulance policy would be held May 15. Now it’s been postponed about a month – Councilman Paul Davis said he was told it’s because staff isn’t quite ready to bring the issue forward (even though a draft new policy apparently was written a few weeks ago).

What’s at issue is whether the policy (which only applies to non-emergency ambulance transport) creates a de facto monopoly for one company – in this case, American Medical Response, or AMR. It requires any ambulance company that wants to do business in Riverside to prove there’s a need for its services, and that the competition won’t harm AMR. (I’ve written about the issue several times, notably here and here.)

Mission Ambulance drops off a patient in Riverside

Critics argue the “need and necessity” clause is vague, making it hard to prove, and some say it’s anti-competitive to refuse permits to new businesses based on projected harm to an existing one. Three City Council members who are running for mayor (Mike Gardner, Andy Melendrez and William “Rusty” Bailey) were asked about it at a candidates’ forum last month and basically all said the policy needs an overhaul. (See their sound bites on video.)

Interestingly, the delay of council discussion pushes the issue to after the June 5 mayoral election, when several council members would arguably be under less pressure. (Riverside County, which has two supervisor seats on the June ballot, also has delayed discussing its 911 ambulance contract with AMR, as noted in this story.)

“Everyone’s just dragging their feet,” said Davis, who has advocated changing the city’s policy to let other companies in.

Gardner discounted politics as the reason for the delay, noting that a runoff in the mayor’s race is likely – and it could include at least one council member. “I believe it will still be an issue for two people, so I don’t think slipping it into June would achieve that goal” of putting off a tough decision, he said.

(I haven’t even mentioned the city’s contract with AMR that helps fund the paramedic program, but some other reporters and I are working on several big-picture stories to put ambulance issues into perspective. Look for that sometime in June.)

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Written by: arobinson on May 10, 2012