Ambulance service may change in Merced County

November 21, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Merced County may soon have a new ambulance provider for the first time in more than 60 years. The county has taken the first steps toward a contract with American Medical Response, or AMR. But the process has already caused controversy, and officials say the decision is not final.

Riggs Ambulance Service is a common sight at crime scenes, accidents, and other emergencies across Merced County. The local company has been a staple in the community since 1948. But that could soon change. American Medical Response says it's preparing to take over as the county's exclusive provider.

Jason Sorrick said, "AMR was selected through a request for proposals by the county, by a selection committee that chose AMR to be the new emergency services provider for the county."

AMR is a nationwide company with nearly 17-thousand employees. The director of communications says it's the largest ambulance provider in California and the country.

Sorrick said, "By selecting us and choosing us, this community gets an outstanding provider and a high performance ems system."

Merced County's CEO confirms AMR has received the initial notice of intent to award the contract, but says the decision is not final. He also tells Action News the county has offered to temporarily extend its contract with Riggs so officials can work through ongoing issues. If AMR does take over, the communications director says it's not clear how many Riggs support staff members could lose their jobs, but EMT's and paramedics would have the first shot at available positions.

Sorrick explained, "As long as their certifications and backgrounds are up to standards that AMR has set, we'll be more than happy to welcome them into the AMR family."

The fire chief for the city of Merced says Riggs has always been a good community partner, and he's concerned about having a smooth transition if AMR takes over.

Riggs' current contract expires at the end of the year. Action News called the company Wednesday, but officials say they can't comment at this time.

The county CEO says there's no date set yet for the board of supervisors to vote on approving the contract.


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