Riggs met its overall compliance for call response times by 93.57 percent, but there were 83 instances during the month when Riggs had zero ambulances available, seven of them in West Side Ambulance District.
Reports from last year paint the same picture.
Based on the average of six monthly reports from April 2011 to December 2011, Riggs met its compliance by 93.52 percent, but required mutual aid an average of 14 times per month with no ambulances available 72 times per month.
President Kraig Riggs said a "Status 0," which means there are no ambulances available, doesn't happen all that often, given the scope of total calls received.
"It only happens 1 percent of the time," Riggs said. "And 80 percent of that time, nothing major happens."
Don Vonarx, general manager of Riggs, added that its contract with the county requires it to report all Status 0 events -- which he said is unusual.
"We believe we are one of the only ambulance services that even report Status 0," Vonarx said. "We're not required to be on the scene 100 percent of the time -- no ambulance provider is. But our data shows during about 80 percent of the Status 0, there are no 911 calls or we get there within the allotted time frame."
Vonarx added that Riggs' response time for life-threatening calls in urban areas has been 94 percent in 2012.
When it comes to requesting mutual aid, Vonarx said, Riggs is "required by county policy to contact and dispatch the closest ambulance, even if that happens to be another provider," including AMR.
But borrowing ambulances from other counties creates strain on them, according to Stanislaus County Supervisor Jim DeMartini.
"Every ambulance is required to provide an adequate level of service, but Riggs is not doing that -- and it's impacting other cities," he said. "The problem is they're not able to handle the volume of calls and it creates a ripple effect that affects other cities like Patterson and Ceres."
According to Dana Solomon, the California Ambulance Association's program director, what's happening with Riggs is not uncommon in other counties.
"I do have to say we've had mom-and-pop, smaller companies that have sold to AMR or other larger companies," Solomon said, adding that it happened in Napa County recently. Although AMR is not the provider for Napa, it won its bid against a 40-year incumbent.
"Riggs has provided excellent service to folks in Merced. It's unfortunate because when a larger corporation like this comes into town, it can displace a large amount of talented employees."
Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or email@example.com.
Riggs Ambulance Service's record
Response time compliance 93.57 percent
Mutual aid requests 19
Status 0 occurrence s83
Response time compliance 95.50 percent
Mutual aid requests 13
Status 0 occurrences 87
Response time compliance 94.36 percent
Mutual aid requests 14
Status 0 occurrences 80
Response time compliance 95.58 percent
Mutual aid requests 18
Status 0 occurrences 62