For almost two years now, the city of San Diego has been talking about putting its ambulance contract out to bid. Talk costs money.
The city has spent almost $165,000 on a consultant to help develop a bid – the equivalent of what it would cost to fund eight additional hours at a neighborhood library. City staff also worked thousands of hours on the project.
All that effort and money might not have gotten the city any closer to a new ambulance contract than when it started.
This situation is the doing of interim mayor Todd Gloria’s two predecessors, Bob Filner and Jerry Sanders. Both considered putting the ambulance contract out to bid, but ultimately punted the issue. By the end of October, Gloria plans to choose whether to go with a plan the city’s already developed or start all over again. It will be a major moment in his brief tenure leading the city.
“I think it’s going to depend on the direction we take whether it’s the biggest decision or among them,” said Gloria spokeswoman Katie Keach.
Sending ambulances to 911 calls is among the most important things the city does. The contract could address how many people show up to emergencies and how many should be paramedics or EMTs, what vehicles they take and how quickly they should get there. And the city’s decided to answer another big question: Should the city’s ambulance workers be public or private?
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I would say that ballpark figure for ambulances and equipment alone would be close to $60 million. That's setting the price at $200,000 per each and purchasing 30 ambulances. I read in a separate article on Voice saying the ballpark revenue for transports comes out to $54.6 million a year. So in one year of operation the city still wouldn't make their money back on ambulance purchases. In a separate figure lets look at what we will spend on wages. The avg EMT makes $20,000 a year and the avg paramedic makes $30,000 a year without overtime. The starting pay for firefighters is $40,000 and for a firefighter medic is $34,000 found on http://www.sandiego.gov/empopp/pdf/saltable.pdf the figure for the firefighters is not including what we also have to pay in regards to city benefits. Each ambulance requires at minimum 2 crew members and if you place them in 12 hr rotations and work them 24/7/365 days you would need a day crew and night crew splint into first half week and second half week. That comes out to 240 employees, on 30 rigs, 4 crew members per day, splinting the week in half. 120 employees first half, 120 second half. 240 employees times an avg pay between FF and FM of $35,000 comes out to 8.4 million. With that the first year the city would lose $14.4 million and that does not include costs for fuel, insurance and other expenses. Frankly I don't think we can afford it.
One thing I haven't heard in the discussion is the start up costs if the City takes over ambulance services. The city will have to hire all the employees and purchase the ambulances and medical equipment. However, these costs will be worth it over time. A city run ambulance service will bring in revenue for the city instead of for a private organization such as rural/metro.