RANGEL: Ambulance bid process fair from beginning

By Javier RangelJanuary 22, 2013 

There has been a considerable amount of discussion lately about the county's selection of American Medical Response over Riggs Ambulance for the county ambulance contract.

As a Merced small-business owner for more than 12 years, I completely understand the need to support local vendors, but a business is no longer local when an owner sells his company name and operations to an out-of-state organization, as is the case with Riggs. Nor is a former local business a better choice when it will provide a lower quality of service.

The reality is, county staff, comprised of EMS and health care professionals, developed and designed a comprehensive and well thought out bidding process, and used independent EMS industry experts to review the proposals of AMR and Riggs. Ultimately, this review panel awarded the most points to AMR because it offered the best overall service for our community by way of more ambulances, more paramedics and new equipment.

County law requires local preference points be awarded to local companies when scoring bid proposals, even if they did not offer the best service. So 18 additional "local preference" points were added to Riggs' total after evaluators had tallied their scores, giving Riggs the most points.

AMR, despite having already been selected by the expert panel, was told that they had lost because Riggs was given additional points for being "local."

AMR appealed, arguing that local points were illegal in EMS contracts and that Riggs is no longer a local company because it sold its name and contract operations to SEMSA, a Nevada-based corporation. The state of California ruled in AMR's favor, and the 18 points were removed from Riggs' total, once again making AMR the winning bidder.

Now Riggs and their political allies are trying to convince the Board of Supervisors to throw out the process and start over. It appears the same company that found the process fair and balanced when they had the higher score based on illegal points is now claiming the process to be flawed, but has presented no evidence upon which to base their claim.

The truth is, staff followed board-approved policies, procedures and direction, and has shown nothing but professionalism throughout the process, even while being subjected to outright hostile and offensive statements from Riggs' political supporters.

If the board chooses to throw the bidding process out, it will not only send a negative message to other successful companies who want to do business here, but it will deny 260,000 county residents the chance of receiving better emergency care.

It will mean that we keep Riggs Ambulance, a Nevada-based company that has repeatedly underserved our community by refusing to operate more ambulances to meet demand and relies on AMR and Westside Ambulance to cover our county upwards of 14 times a month.

The Board of Supervisors has an important responsibility here, which is to dispense with politics and show courage in doing the right thing by awarding the contract to AMR.

Rangelis a Merced business owner.

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