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City, county continue EMS legal fight despite Grand Jury report

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Posted: Tuesday, September 4, 2007 10:00 pm

Lodi's legal fight with San Joaquin County over emergency service dispatching continues to drag on even after a Grand Jury told the parties to stop bickering.

Lodi is currently in confidential negotiations with the county, Deputy City Attorney Janice Magdich said Tuesday. If a resolution is not reached by the end of the month, it is scheduled to go to trial next year, she said.

The Lodi City Council is expected to approve a response to the Grand Jury report on Wednesday.

In May 2006, San Joaquin County contracted with American Medical Response to dispatch 911 calls. The county told cities to switch over; Stockton, Manteca and Lodi refused, and the county sued the three holdout cities.

Lodi has had a contract with the Stockton Fire Department for seven years to dispatch medical and fire calls.

"What we've had with Stockton has been excellent service," Lodi Fire Chief Mike Pretz said.

During the past year, emergency medical land line calls from Lodi have gone to Stockton where they are routed to AMR's LifeCom dispatch center in Salida via computer. LifeCom in turn dispatches the ambulances.

Stockton still handles Lodi's fire dispatch, and Lodi Police Department dispatches police cars. Emergency cell phone calls are answered by California Highway Patrol and are routed to LifeCom.

Lodi, Stockton and Manteca have complained about AMR's response time to the County Emergency Medical Services Office.

The Grand Jury investigated AMR and the cities' squabble with the county. In its report released in June, the Grand Jury said: "It's time for all the agencies to set aside their differences … and to work together on improving emergency medical and fire dispatch in San Joaquin County."

Citizens want emergency services dispatchers and providers to respond as fast as possible, whether it is a public agency or a private company doing the dispatching.
The San Joaquin County Grand Jury recently found that American Medical Response, the contractor the county uses, is doing a fast, reliable job.
Public safety officials, however, say private companies like AMR shouldn't be dispatching emergency services. It's more expensive for the taxpayer, for one, and agencies such as the Stockton Fire Department know best how to handle emergencies.
- News-Sentinel staff.

Magdich said the city will respond to the Grand Jury as required by law, but would not issue a full report because the litigation is ongoing.

Dan Burch, county EMS administrator, said the AMR contract has been successful in the first year, save for the three holdout cities. AMR's performance is reviewed monthly, he said, and ambulance response time has been the highest in Lodi with an average response time of just less than four minutes for March and April.

"The system overall is working very well," he said. "We're trying to do what's best for patient care."

Pretz said the city has the right to determine who dispatches emergency services. Stockton Fire's dispatching is $5 cheaper per 911 call than AMR, he said. Both dispatchers cost about $19 for fire calls and $9 for medical calls, but AMR's service carries a $5 radio operator fee per call, he said.

"(Stockton Fire) is more efficient and less expensive than any private company," he said.

AMR is awaiting the outcome of the city and county litigation and is prepared to offer full dispatching services to Lodi, AMR spokesman Jason Sorrick said.

"We would like to move forward and have everyone using our services," he said. "If Lodi chooses to use AMR, we're willing and able to provide those services."

Contact reporter Matt Brown at mattb@lodinews.com.

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  • posted at 5:52 pm on Tue, Sep 11, 2007.


    You folks in Lodi will soon learn the hard lesson that other communities around the country have about AMR. The company as a whole is losing it's grip and won't be around much longer and the cities will have to cover. AMR is profit based and only 1 of 5 911 calls actually have billable insurance, so they are losing their shirts in San Joaquin from all the medi-cal. AMR will leave with little notice just like the did in the San Gabriel Valley in So-Cal.

  • posted at 12:13 pm on Tue, Sep 11, 2007.


    ...and I hope you don't have to continue to pay high taxesfor guys who are over compensated...

  • posted at 6:00 am on Tue, Sep 11, 2007.


    I hope that if house burns, Lifecom doesn't accidentally dispatch Manteca Fire Dept to your house in Lodi and an AMR ambulance shows up first so they can comfort you with the food Lodi Fire bought at Raleys.

  • posted at 5:53 am on Tue, Sep 11, 2007.


    AMR has a track record of making mistakes dispatching, slow response times with ambulances and basically bullying their way (or buying their way in.. The case here in San Joaquin County) into an area. I've worked as a 911 EMT-P in Lodi and Stockton and now live in LA County. AMR is messing up here too, and my company has to cover the 911 calls they miss. Lodi fire is just trying to protect the community from the inevidable.

  • posted at 6:31 pm on Fri, Sep 7, 2007.


    Franklin,They can't already!There is thousands of people wanting there jobs!Why do we pay them so much?

  • posted at 2:42 pm on Fri, Sep 7, 2007.


    Although the lowest bid may not always the best in quality, you have look very carefully at any business that must make a profit vs the agency that operates as a non-profit. There are a lot of local governments that have been burned by the for-profit ambulance services coming in and taking over EMS service, and then disappearing when there was no more profit, leaving the local government to bail out the EMS system. I think the cities in question are being prudent in evaluating what works best and allowing their elected officials to make the choice.

  • posted at 4:46 pm on Thu, Sep 6, 2007.


    Read what Burch said..."The system, overall, is working well."...LFD needs to accept this...but they don't, because without these emergency calls they'll just sit around...or shop at Raley's on the taxpayer time...eventually, they won't be able to justify their high salaries and generous retirement...

  • posted at 8:22 am on Thu, Sep 6, 2007.


    lodi living: you have no idea what you are talking about. i personally know many ambulance crews in both stockton and lodi. of course they sit in the shade wherever they find it.....it's summertime.those places they sit are to ensure minimum response times. they get on scene first and many times cancel the FD because the FD is not needed as a first responder yet, in stockton's case, their FD still respondes with lights and sirens endangering themselves and the public. believe me.....you will thank both AMR and the FDs if you need their services.

  • posted at 2:16 pm on Wed, Sep 5, 2007.


    kioj BINGO! Yes you hit it right on the nail!Fire Department needs to just do what they are there for!Union wants to control everything so we have no choice on anything!They are good in some ways but bad in a lot more!

  • posted at 11:46 am on Wed, Sep 5, 2007.


    They have to eat and albertson's isn't there. If something happens to you, you'll see who is who. Then you can come back here and tell how great LFD is. Ask anyone except yourself who gets on scene first. Those ambulance drivers can be across texas for anyone knows. They don't even have stations anymore. AMR doesn't even care enough about their employees let alone a dieing person. It's all about the $$$ to them.

  • posted at 9:22 am on Wed, Sep 5, 2007.


    read the article county ems says that the ambulance gets on scene in less than 4 minutes that is as fast or faster than the fire dept who may be grocery shopping at albertsons

  • posted at 8:53 am on Wed, Sep 5, 2007.


    It isn't about who can and can't do the job. Obviously they are all well trained according to protocal. It's about response time. Fire beats ambulance about 95% of the time. We need our FF's to be the first responders. We don't even know where the ambulnace will be called from. They stop and sit wherever they find shade.

  • posted at 4:40 am on Wed, Sep 5, 2007.


    the fire departments are still upset about having their hero egos stepped on by an ambulance company. time to grow up boys! you fought the fair fight and lost.

  • posted at 2:11 am on Wed, Sep 5, 2007.


    About a month ago, I had to use my cell phone to report a medical aid situation. I ended up in touch with Lifecom. I was not impressed. I gave my exact location..an intersection..to the dispatcher. I also was sure to clearly state the City I was in. The dispatcher still couldn't get it right. When the fire crew and ambulance finally did arrive, they were very professional and expertly handled the situation. (Well Done Woodbridge Fire Department!) I hope that the problems with Lifecom can be fixed before someone loses a life.

  • posted at 1:58 am on Wed, Sep 5, 2007.


    Talk about not playing well with others. This is nothing more than a power play by the local munis. AMR can and does do the job. The union may lose a person or two over this, so time to raise the alarm bell.
    What a joke. Disobeying the law, what an example for the little citizens.



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