Rural/Metro Loses Patient Reports

Rural/Metro took over Santa Clara County’s ambulance contract last July, and by most accounts the company has done a good job. The company submitted a low bid to replace American Medical Response, and county Supervisors George Shirakawa, Mike Wasserman and Dave Cortese championed Rural/Metro as a low-cost yet responsible replacement. Aside from a rough transition in the first month on the job, response times have been above the required threshold in most cases. However, what isn’t found in the monthly reports that Rural/Metro is required to submit to the county is the number of patient records the company lost in its first two months on the job. According to company spokesman Michael Simonsen, Rural/Metro lost 117 Patient Care Records (PCRs) in July 2011 and another 25 in August. The company says the lost reports were caused by faulty technology—smart phones and tablets that didn’t upload the information properly—but even more disturbing might be the fact that the company had no idea how many reports were lost until Fly asked Rural/Metro last month. Seriously—a year went by, and the company had no interest in finding out how bad of a problem it had on its hands until word leaked. Even more disturbing is that Rural/Metro may have misled county officials about the severity of the problem. Michael Petrie, the county Emergency Medical Services director, told Fly last month, “We believe we still have the data.” This, of course, was not true. Maybe even more troubling, though, is that EMTs whose reports were lost in the matrix were told by their supervisors to re-create reports based off of memory and hospital records. Rural/Metro says 20-30 reports, which are also used to bill patients, were re-created in this fashion.

The Fly is the valley’s longest running political column, written by Metro Silicon Valley staff, to provide a behind-the-scenes look at local politics. Fly accepts anonymous tips.


  1. First and foremost, no patient records were lost!

    In the early stages of implementing the Santa Clara County 911 Ambulance contract, we experienced some technical difficulties with our electronic Patient Care Record (ePCR) system software as well as the County computer aided dispatch system.  While protected by encryption, some ePCR’s did not transmit through the electronic system when uploading to our central database.  There were no paper records which were “lost”, rather simply electronic transmissions that did not process. 
    We quickly identified the issue and took the appropriate steps to rectify it.  Meanwhile, emergency response times and patient care in the County have never been better.

    Finally, it should be noted that we transported 5,628 patients in July 2011. This should provide some context on someone trying to manufacture a story where one does not exist.

    Michael Simonsen
    Rural/Metro Ambulance
    Director of Public Affairs, California

    • The story says, “According to company spokesman Michael Simonsen, Rural/Metro lost 117 Patient Care Records (PCRs) in July 2011 and another 25 in August.”

      The first line of your post is, “First and foremost, no patient records were lost!”

      Did you misspeak, or were you incorrectly quoted earlier?

      Also 117 out of 5,638 is just over 2%.

    • More R/M lies. 98% of the Rural Metro employees in Santa Clara HATE this company and the lies that come along with them. The best thing would be for this company to have to take responsibility for their actions and lose their contract. But as history shows in other counties they won’t take responsibility for their pathetic mistakes.

  2. There are always glitches when handling a major half-a-billion dollar Ambulance Contract transition. I honestly would not worry about it.

    Are they even required to keep records?

    • come on dem, really.  Of course they need to keep track of patient records. 

      guess that is why you vote DEM and vote OB.  Because you don’t think or do your homework.

  3. I have found that the transition from AMR to Rural/METRO has been a good one. Since the majority of Rural/METRO’s EMT’s were all AMR EMT’s, the working relationship with the local EMT’s, SJFD, and SJPD have continued to be exceptional from my stand point. JMO obviously, but from a line level, I can’t say enough good things about the employees. I have no basis to comment on how Rural/METRO is as an actual employer though.

  4. It is not true. Rural Metro has consistantly met their obligations to the County and have gone far and above the service provided by AMR. Be careful of rumors.

    • Then why have they been fined almost 3.5 million dollars since the start of last year for NOT meeting response times at greater than a 90% clip.

      I am a first responder medic and I have seen first hand how long it can take to get an ambulance on scene. They weren’t perfect, but AMR was way better.

      Also, the medics being hired and trained by Rural Metro now are of MUCH poorer quality. Thank goodness enough of the old AMR medics are still around to pick up the slack, but it won’t stay that way.

      With the limited inside knowledge that I have as a first responder, I know there are many more problems going on behind the scenes as well that aren’t in the public spotlight……YET.

      I would not be disappointed at all to see AMR back on the streets again and I strongly suspect many of the Rural Metro medics feel the same.

  5. Then why have they been fined every month since they started?  They are constantly at low levels , and are conssistantly moving units from other jurisdictions to cover the busier areas. at times they have been at zero units in the city and have to respond from gilroy area. Im NOT starting Rumors , Im just asking what people ,in the field from Both Rural/Metro and AMR have been saying For the last month or so. IvoteDem ,if you work in the field or have insight please share

    • I was a health commissioner for the County for 3 years, and during that time I was Vice Chair of the County’s EMS Committee.

      The 911 ambulance provider is fined based upon a few different criteria, but the bulk of fines are based upon the length of time it takes an ambulance to arrive on scene (7 mins 59 secs). No provider has ever received a 100% response time in any given month. AMR was fined at the same amount that Rural/Metro is fined, however in the new contract the fines are larger. The threshold for upholding the contract is 90% which has been met consistantly, which was not the case with AMR.

      It is the same with Fire Departments who are fined if they show up on scene past 4 mins.

      Fines are a cost of doing business and are unavoidable.

      These records are public, feel free to ask the EMS Agency for the numbers. The EMS agency can explain the complex contract, and complex system to you if you would like. Rural/Metro has proven to have strengthened the system in many different ways, including paying for the education of Sunnyvale’s public safety (which members switch from 3 years as firefighter and 3 years as police officer) to become paramedic first responders which has not been the case in the past. When usually the fire dept. shows up on scene first in other cities, sunnyvale didn’t have that.

      That is just one example but there are many more.

      We are in good hands! If there is ever a breech in contract by Rural/Metro, the county would take immediate action.

  6. IvoteDem- The Sunnyvale thing was not R/M choice, it was in the contract and did not happen by the way. The money has been defaulted to the county as Sunnyvale decided to not become ALS. Many parts of the contract are not being fulfilled but are not given much concern seing as how they effect mostly field employees. Many things that were promised have not been fulfilled. EMT’s took an overall pay wage cut instead of the 2.00 + or – that they were promised in the proposal. Stations for the crews never happened. Most crews are being run into the ground with move ups and are regularly being held over by 2 hours each shift and putting more than 200 miles a day on the ambulance in move ups. Given that the 911 call volume for the last year has been about 20,000 calls less that the previous year and all the move ups I would hope that the response times are better. How could they not be? Just a few examples.

  7. Seems to me like very few Rural Metro Employees are happy with the Company. Constant complaints of being over worked, underpaid. Promises unkept by the Company. No real quarters for crews. what gives?

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