Riverside: Second ambulance service rejected

Posted on December 14, 2011 by tclowdus

BY ALICIA ROBINSON

STAFF WRITER

arobinson@pe.com

Published: 13 December 2011 09:12 PM

For the second time in the past three months, the Riverside City Council rejected an ambulance company’s request to run non-emergency calls in the city.

Los Angeles-based Alpha Ambulance had applied for a franchise permit, which the city requires for ambulance companies to operate here. In October, the council turned down a permit request from Mission Ambulance of Corona. In both cases, city officials said the companies didn’t show there was a public need for more ambulance providers.

The council will revisit its ambulance policy at a workshop, possibly in January. Questions were raised in recent months about what state law says on ambulances and the city’s power to regulate the service.

All 911 ambulance responses are controlled through Riverside County’s exclusive contract with American Medical Response, or AMR, but the county considers non-emergency ambulance transports – such as from a hospital to a long-term care facility – an open market in which numerous private companies compete for business.

The city of Riverside has for years used the permit process to regulate non-emergency ambulance companies. So far only AMR has received a permit. City officials say other applicants have failed to meet the city’s standards.

The standards require ambulance companies to have a county permit, which confirms they have the proper equipment, training and insurance; to show a public need for additional ambulance service; and to show that allowing more providers won’t harm the viability of the current permit holder.

On Tuesday, two employees of Alpha Ambulance tried to reassure the council they don’t want to cherry-pick calls from paying patients – a concern raised at earlier hearings – and they noted the company would create jobs in the city.

“Our price is actually less than AMR,” Alpha vice president Russ Muratov said. “We can give that additional option to the residents of the city (and) to the convalescent homes.”

The council voted 6-1 to reject Alpha’s application, with Councilman Paul Davis dissenting.

Davis, disagreeing with Fire Chief Steve Earley’s findings, said he does think there’s a public need for another ambulance provider, and he asked city staff to request an official opinion on Riverside’s ambulance rules from the state Emergency Medical Services Agency.

The agency reviews and approves counties’ emergency medical service plans. Agency officials said last week that Riverside doesn’t have the authority to restrict non-emergency ambulances. City Attorney Greg Priamos disagreed with that interpretation.

Councilman William “Rusty” Bailey requested a council workshop next month to explain the public-need rule and how the city evaluates that aspect of applications.

Questions also have been raised about the city’s relationship with AMR because of a contract that has AMR paying the city about $1.4 million a year to equip and train city paramedics, but Riverside officials have insisted that contract is unrelated to decisions regarding non-emergency ambulance service.