Merced County Emergency Medical Services officials resign

Manager, medical director leave after views rejected

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comMarch 9, 2013 

— Two Merced County Emergency Medical Services officials, who were at the center of the Riggs Ambulance Service and American Medical Response contract dispute, have resigned their positions.

Linda Diaz, Merced County's Emergency Medical Services manager, is still on the job but is leaving her post at the end of next week, county officials said Friday.

Along with Diaz, county EMS Medical Director Dr. Jim Andrews also resigned. His resignation was effective March 1, but Andrews offered his services to the county beyond that date until a replacement is found.

The resignations of Diaz and Andrews are both voluntary, county officials stressed. The county contracts with Andrews for his services, officials said. He isn't one of its employees, like Diaz, who fills a full-time staff position.

Although Andrews declined comment Friday, his resignation letter states he feels it's in the best interest of Merced County to resign "after the recent no confidence vote by the Board of Supervisors."

Andrews was referring to the board's Jan. 29 decision to reject the recommendations he, Diaz and staff made to award the ambulance contract to AMR rather than longtime provider Riggs -- a decision which reopened the bidding process.

Andrews, who served Merced County for 17 years, concluded the letter by saying "perhaps it is time for a new medical director with different priorities." He didn't elaborate.

Calls made to Diaz and Public Health Director Kathleen Grassi were not returned on Friday.

'Status zero' events

Diaz and Andrews came under fire as the bidding process unfolded for the county's emergency ambulance service contract. The resignations come as the county prepares to restart the bidding process by drafting a new request for proposal.

Riggs Ambulance Serv- ice's contract was in jeopardy after the 65-year provider initially lost its bid to renew the contract to AMR last year.

AMR, a Colorado-based ambulance company, won the bidding for the contract by four points -- receiving a cumulative score of 364.8, compared with Riggs' score of 360.6.

But Riggs officials maintained the process was "flawed" and appealed to the Board of Supervisors to start over, which they unanimously agreed to do on Jan. 29.

During a public hearing in December, Andrews criticized Riggs Ambulance Service's frequent "status zero" events, periods when no ambulances were available.

"Because if you don't have ambulances, you don't have ambulances. It's like going to Vons when you're thirsty and you want to buy water and they don't have any," Andrews said. "If I get in an accident on the freeway coming here or going home, I want to know that an ambulance is going to show up when someone calls it."

Resignation reasons

Riggs had a monthly average of 48 status-zero events over five minutes and 30 status-zero events over 10 minutes in 2011, according to Grassi. Riggs maintains they aren't a valid measure of performance, pointing out it has met response-time requirements more than 90 percent of the time.

District 3 Supervisor Linn Davis said Friday he didn't know what prompted the resignations, but said it's their decision.

"I'm not sitting in their shoes, and I've never thought I should stop anyone from making a choice to resign or retire. That's their choice," he said. "I'm not aware of anyone putting pressure on them to resign."

Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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