Conflicting parties to work together to improve ambulance service.
After years of battling, Monterey County fire and private ambulance service officials will take a shot at working together to improve the local emergency transport system, starting next month.
On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors accepted a report from county Emergency Medical Services Agency director Kirk Schmitt that included a plan for resolving a series of issues with the local system as outlined by county-hired consultant Citygate Associates.
Last month, supervisors approved a one-year contract extension for current ambulance provider American Medical Response, as recommended by Citygate. But that included a proviso that local emergency officials begin work on a number of improvements to the system ranging from increased transparency on AMR’s performance to improved public information and outreach efforts.
The improvement plan drew praise on Tuesday from Salinas city Fire Chief Edmund Rodriguez, who spoke on behalf of the Monterey County Fire Chiefs Association, which led the original charge earlier this year to make changes to the system.
Rodriguez said significant progress has been made on outreach efforts. The chiefs and others had called for delaying or rejecting AMR’s request for a contract extension in January due to dissatisfaction with a range of operational and billing issues.
No AMR official spoke at Tuesday’s meeting.
According to the EMS plan, local emergency responders will meet at an Operational Issues Stakeholder Summit scheduled for Jan. 15, where a number of Citygate’s recommendations will be addressed.
At the summit, led by a facilitator, emergency officials will decide whether to hire a consultant to guide a number of the improvements, and establish a scope of work.
Recommended improvements include:
· Forming a new Systems Operations Committee to consolidate a number of existing committees.
· Considering a future ambulance system redesign.
· Establishing a new ambulance contract compliance data review process.
· Reviewing the use of fire ambulances when AMR can’t meet response time requirements.
· Increased coordination and reduced costs between AMR and local government through the county emergency dispatch center.
The plan also calls for improved outreach on ambulance billing and other information such as the fee forgiveness programs through an AMR flyer and county health department postings; and annual audits and quarterly reports on billing, service and complaints from AMR to the county.
Agreements have been reached on mutual aid between AMR and the city of Carmel at the mouth of the valley, and East Garrison response times, which will be set at 12 minutes.
AMR is expected to seek its fourth one-year extension of its local ambulance contract — from January 2018 to January 2019 — next month. Its contract started as a five-year pact in 2010 and allows for up to five one-year extensions.
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