SAN DIEGO: Paramedics Criticize Ambulance Management
United Paramedics San Diego, "a group of 64 current and former paramedics and dispatchers, ... have filed a legal claim against the city," citing dangerously high increases in response time since a new agency took over ambulance calls, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. "This is the most abhorrent system we have ever had, paramedic-wise," said paramedic Jon Coffman, referring to Fire & Life Services, which assumed control of the city's emergency medical system last July. Coffman stressed the importance of time in severe medical emergencies and expressed concern that the new system's guidelines allow ambulances too much response time. The Union-Tribune notes that ambulance crews are now required to respond to emergencies "within 12 minutes 90% of the time," up from 10 minutes 93% of the time under the previous contractor. Coffman was particularly critical of response time in the Rancho Penasquitos area, where no ambulances are stationed. "We can ill afford to play Russian roulette with the lives of the citizens we serve," he said.
A Detailed Report
"San Diego city officials insisted that the new system is better than what it replaced," the Union-Tribune reports. Pat Nunez, director of the city's emergency medical system, said that all fire stations are now staffed with paramedics, and the 12-minute response time "is offset by an eight-minute response time required for fire trucks carrying at least one paramedic." She also said ambulances arrived within 12 minutes 93.4% of the time citywide in November. Further, Nunez "said she has gotten far fewer public complaints since Fire & Life Services-Rural Metro took over" and that the emergency response system under the new contractor "meets all county, state, and federal guidelines." Coffman disputed the city's figures, and he said "his group has assembled a 116-page report detailing" deficiencies in the emergency response system -- a report he said would be released next month. The Union-Tribune notes that the legal claim filed by United Paramedics amounts to "a prelude to a lawsuit" (Huard, 1/23).