Michael Delaney: Ambulance bid process flawed

December 5, 2012 

MS RIGGS3

MARCI STENBERG/mstenberg@mercedsunstar.com Riggs Ambulance Service (RAS) may no longer be the ambulance provider after the county decided to enter into contract negotiations with American Medical Response (AMR).After losing 18 points in their evaluation. Riggs ambulance personnel Alex Drake EMT, left, helps Paramedic, Jess Fernandez, behind door, with a patient after arriving at the Merced Medical, Merced, Ca., Monday, 12-3-2012 afternoon.

MARCI STENBERG

Lives and livelihoods hang in the balance. Merced County's premier paramedic ambulance service may be put out of business and the citizens of the county will suffer.

As required by state law, counties that contract with private ambulance services must go out to bid periodically. I am familiar with the process, having participated in many over the last 25 years.

Merced County changed the rules of the procurement process after the bid process had been completed, after the bids were submitted, and after the successful bidder was declared. The new rules resulted in a Colorado-based company receiving four more subjective and baseless points than Riggs Ambulance. County staff used this to reverse their decision and name a new winner for the bid.

I and many others believe the process was flawed. It lacked substantive, quantifiable guidelines for awarding points, instead relying on the subjective assessment of individuals with no experience in managing a high-performance paramedic ambulance service. These four points, assigned arbitrarily, amount to a margin of less than one percent -- hardly a compelling reason to uproot an exceptional 65-year-old Merced-based business and displace 45 productive men and women.

In a court of law, if jury instructions are found to be incorrect, a mistrial is declared and the process starts over. That is what should happen in this case. And it's exactly what happened in Napa County two years ago when its ambulance procurement process was found to be flawed. The county revised the process and started over.

I am a consultant to paramedic ambulance services and have helped many good companies -- including Riggs Ambulance Service -- tell their stories. The story of Riggs Ambulance and its commitment to the community is one of the best. Replacing a high-performance paramedic service is not the same as switching private trash haulers. Become informed. Visit www.riggsambulance.com and watch the video.

Michael Delaney is principal consultant and creative director of Delaney Matrix, based in Fresno.

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