On Tuesday, Jan. 13, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors approved a new contract with American Medical Response for provision of ambulance and emergency medical services throughout the county, including portions of the Hill.

Verne Lauritzen, chief of staff to former 3rd District Supervisor Jeff Stone, said the issue of service to Pine Cove and on the Hill was never discussed during the supervisors’ deliberation of the proposed contract.

Idyllwild Fire Protection District has an exclusive operating right to provide these services within its jurisdiction, but provision of these services outside of the district will be limited to backing up AMR. IFPD currently also serves Pine Cove and north. That ends July 1.

The new contract permits AMR to subcontract these services in the Mountain Plateau area, which includes the areas from Poppet Flat south to Piñyon Pines and west to Sage.

The board’s vote was 3-1. Only 1st District Supervisor Kevin Jeffries opposed the new contract. His concern was that the board had decided to re-negotiate a new contract with the current provider — AMR — rather than request competitive bids from any ambulance provider.

In presenting the proposal to the board, County Emergency Services Director Bruce Barton said, “This agreement represents the last step in a two-year planning process that included the public and the multiple EMS stakeholders.”

The contract is for five years, but AMR can earn 10 one-year extensions, which also concerned Jeffries. Fourth District Supervisor John Benoit offered an amendment to the proposal requiring an annual report to the board on AMR’s performance.

Originally, he suggested the board approve the extensions, but 2nd District Supervisor John Tavaglione argued that would politicize the annual review, pitting the different stakeholders against each other.

Chair Marion Ashley, (5th District) praised Barton and commented, “The citizens of Riverside County are winning big time with this contract.”

Barton indicated the new contract would aid the county’s emergency medical dispatch program. While medical dispatchers currently suggest triage to callers to help prepare victims for the arrival of first responders, the county wants to expand the EMD efforts.

“Based on triage, the patient’s acuity may alter the resources we send,” he told the supervisors. “At a very minimum, we may not need to send all resources. Or in the case of a full [heart] arrest, roll all resources.” This is part of the [new] strategic plan, he added.

County Fire Chief John Hawkins concurred with Barton. “The pre-arrival instructions have been very successful. The contract will provide us a look at future triage calls allowing a different level of service.”