SAN DIEGO: Ambulance System Criticism Called ‘Meritless’
San Diego officials have dismissed claims "by current and former paramedics and dispatchers that [the city's] eight-month-old emergency ambulance system is unsafe" as "a gross overstatement," the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. United Paramedics San Diego, "a group of 64 paramedics and dispatchers who used to work for American Medical Services until the firm's contract with the city for emergency ambulance service expired in June," filed a "formal claim" -- the "first step before filing a lawsuit" -- in December alleging that the new system "puts people at greater risk because ambulances can take up to 12 minutes to arrive on 90% of calls, compared with the 10 minutes under the old contract." They further cited instances when ambulances took longer than 12 minutes and lack of experience among some new paramedics.
Deputy City Attorney Theresa McAteer responded to the charges by saying the longer response time "is offset by faster response by fire engines with paramedics, which are expected to respond within eight minutes 90% of the time." She also said that according to the records, no "medical procedures have been performed improperly." In addition, she accused the United Paramedics of "running 'a misleading public campaign'" that was "aimed at getting jobs for those put out of work under the new system." City Councilwoman Barbara Warden, chair of the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee, said her committee plans to review the ambulance service February 25. "My sense is that this claim is really absurd," she said. Melody Harris, counsel for United Paramedics, said a formal lawsuit would be filed against the city in "a week to 10 days" (Huard, 2/6).