County Poised to Continue Rural Metro Ambulance Contract Despite Bankruptcy

Despite going bankrupt in August, it looks like Rural/Metro will continue providing ambulance services for Santa Clara County residents—at least through 2016.

Cutting the contract short and going out to bid for a new service provider would only cost more money, the county says in a memo going before the Board of Supervisors next week.

Rural/Metro nabbed a five-year contract with the county in 2011 by coming in with the lowest bid. Since then, it’s been a bumpy ride. Twice in 2012, the Arizona-based company failed to meet response time requirements and in the past year it “has experienced a series of performance and fiscal challenges,” the county says.

The ambulance company quickly addressed the situation by upping the number of ambulances and the time they spend on the streets to improve response times. Financially, things have been pretty shaky for a while. Rural/Metro was bought out by another company, which added $515 million in debt to the company’s balance sheets.

“In the two years since that transaction was initiated, Rural/Metro has experienced a downward financial spiral” that culminated with the company filing for bankruptcy in August.

Before the bankruptcy filing, the county met with the company to talk about its financial status. Rural/Metro revealed it was operating at a deficit because of a larger-than-expected percentage of Medi-Cal patients.

More from the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors agenda for December 10, 2013:

• By paying off invoices earlier, the county could save a significant amount of money, Supervisor Joe Simitian says. He wants the county to find out what cash discounts are available with vendors if they tighten the billing cycle.

• The Department of Family and Children’s Services, the agency that oversees a local child abuse hotline, is asking for nearly $8 million to hire new help and beef up staffing at its call center. The call center came under scrutiny recently when an audit came out noting that during some months of the past year, up to half the calls were lost. The agency says it answers 90 percent of them now, but that’s after several years of regularly dropping 40 percent or more of the calls.

• People who suffer from tuberculosis can use their smartphones to help researchers closely monitor their symptoms. The county wants to enter into an agreement with UC San Diego that would put 50 smartphones with a two-year service plan into the hands of local TB patients. The patients would shoot video of themselves taking each dose of their TB meds and send those videos to public health officials using their free phone. Health officials then send the video to UC researchers to study.

• A task force that studied San Jose State University’s diversity issues in 2011 is being reconvened to look into the recent hate crimes that took place on campus, when four white students allegedly terrorized a black roommate. Supervisors will hear an update on the county’s hate crime prevention program and discuss how the DA’s response to the crimes could impact the emotional toll on the community.

WHAT: Board of Supervisors meets
WHEN: 9am Tuesday
WHERE: County Government Center, 70 W. Hedding St., San Jose
INFO: Lynn Regadanz, [email protected]

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

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