Future unclear for Falk: County fire, health officials discuss upcoming ambulance contract negotiations News

If you are seriously injured and require immediate medical transport to a hospital, waiting 20 to 40 minutes could be the difference between life and death.

But Joe McThorn, a firefighter and union president for the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department, told the Weekly that last week is the first time he’s seen it happen — and it’s not the first time it’s happened.

“I’ve got only four days at work,” he said. “Five of the calls I was on, actually six, had responses from Falk ambulances that were over 20 minutes and two that were over 40 minutes. These were seriously injured people and sick people and that has become the norm.”

European-based ambulance company Falck, through its local branch Falck Northern California, is the current ambulance contractor providing transportation services to several cities in Alameda County – except Berkeley, Alameda, Albany and Piedmont, which have their own fire departments. uses. emergency transport.

The for-profit ambulance company, which began operating under the county in 2019, provides 911 emergency services under the authority and contract award of the Alameda County Fire Department’s Board of Supervisors.

It includes Livermore and Pleasanton, which are part of the county’s specific operating area (EOA).

The primary daily governing body for the contract is Alameda County Emergency Medical Services, which falls under the Alameda County Health Department. The Alameda County Fire Department is a separate department that serves unincorporated Alameda County and several other jurisdictions through contract.

As Falk’s current contract expires in mid-2024, the county fire department has announced its plans to bid for an EOA when a request for proposals is issued around June. The RFP process will be led by the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency.

What this means for LPFD is that it gives the department’s joint jurisdictional authority an opportunity to discuss with the county fire department whether LPFD can partner with the county in providing 911 services, should they be awarded the bid. .

This led the city managers of Pleasanton and Livermore, who both serve as joint executive directors of the LPFD, to seek the approval of their respective councils to execute a joint letter of intent to negotiate the terms of the request for proposal.

The Pleasanton City Council approved its letter of intent during its consent calendar last Tuesday, and Livermore is set to approve a similar proposal, also presented to the Livermore City Council on Monday as part of its consent calendar. Will be done. Items on the Consensus Calendar are of a routine nature and are generally approved without discussion.

Falck’s response time was also one of the main factors listed in the Pleasanton City Council employee agenda report as to why the county is evaluating its options for moving forward with a different company.

“For various reasons … at several points during the contract period, Falk has had difficulty meeting its contractual obligations primarily related to ambulance response times,” according to the staff report. “Falck was out of compliance in October, November and December of 2021, such that Alameda County placed Falck on a monitoring performance improvement plan aimed at improving response times.”

McThorn, president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 1974, which represents firefighters working for the LPFD, said that even though Falk has made some efforts to improve, the county deserves better.

“Falk has implemented some changes,” McThorne said. “They hired non-federal workers from out-of-state to make up for the staffing shortage. It was a mild reform, it still didn’t meet the correct contractual agreements.”

He said that with the letter of intent, he hoped that the LPFD might have a chance to take matters into its own hands.

“What we want to do with the letter of intent is partner with Alameda County Fire, which is a large agency, and then contract with them (so that) we have our own ambulances in Livermore and Pleasanton that cover our communities. McThorn said. “Hayward and Fremont want to do the same.”

But unfortunately, according to LPFD Fire Chief Joe Testa, that’s not likely to happen.

Testa said, “I do not expect Alameda County to break its EOA, which allows cities to bid for services. As such, the LPFD (Joint Powers Authority) and the cities of Livermore and Pleasanton are expected to respond to the RFP. Not preparing for.”

He added that in addition to finding ways to partner with the county fire department in its future contract, the LPFD is also working with Falk to find ways to improve services within the current contract.

But as the fire chief, fire department and local firefighters union in Alameda County work on overall improvements to the entire emergency response system, they are not sure whether Falk will bid on the county’s next contract and the new model that comes with it.

According to the staff report, “This new model looks generally similar to the model in Contra Costa County, whereby the county fire department contracts with a private ambulance provider (yet to be identified) to provide primary care to cities within the county.” response service can be provided. “This model would be more financially viable than the current model as the cost recovery rates are (statutoryly) higher for public entities as compared to private providers.”

But McThorne said he still firmly believes that the LPFD should subcontract ambulance services.

He said the department has been asking the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and the Alameda County Emergency Medical Services Agency to consider that possibility for several years, but was denied and has not responded to requests for information.

But according to Jerry Randrup, director of communications for the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency, state regulations won’t allow that.

“It is important to note that state law and California Emergency Medical Services Authority regulations provide that a local EMS agency (LEMSA) may operate a special operations area – where one provider is responsible for ambulance services for the area. — in the interest of local systems of care and per state-directed procurement requirements, Randrup said in an email to the Weekly.

“By granting exclusive rights to provide ambulance transportation services within the exclusive operating area, LEMSA may compel the selected ambulance provider to serve all areas within the area, including remote rural and low-income areas where there is a need for health care.” unequal access is largely observed,” Randrup added. “Allowing the Livermore Pleasanton Fire Department to operate EMS ambulance transportation in their areas violates the exclusivity granted to Falck and is inconsistent with the County’s commitment to maintaining ambulance services that provide the same service level to all residents.” Is.”

Overall, it is unclear what the terms and conditions for local participation in the model and negotiations between the LPFD and ACFD to refine the bid proposal will look like. But however it plays out, McThorn said he wants it to provide the proper emergency services that residents of Pleasanton and Livermore deserve.

“Livermore-Pleasanton, Hayward, Fremont, Alameda County, Oakland and other agencies have never failed to respond and get there within a reasonable amount of time, and our communities deserve that,” McThorne said. “So we want to do just that.”

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