By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
EXETER– A year ago, Exeter District Ambulance began a three-month trend of late arrivals that nearly cost the public ambulance company its contract to operate in Tulare County. It was a stark contrast to the final three months of 2018 when the tax-funded ambulance was nearly perfect.
District Manager Peter Sodhy delivered the good news to the Exeter District Ambulance (EDA) board of directors at its Jan. 28 meeting. Sodhy said EDA exceeded its required response times for its emergency calls in the fourth quarter. Each ambulance provider in Tulare County is required to have their crews arrive within 10 minutes of being dispatched to a life threatening call, priority 1 and 2 calls, at least 95% of the time. In October, EDA crews arrived within 10 minutes 97.14% of the time, the highest mark among county ambulance providers that month, and in November and December, they arrived within that time period every time, the only provider to do so during those months.
“We were fully in compliance with our contract from July through December,” Sodhy said. “We are now completely out of our breach of contract.”
EDA received a letter on May 2, 2018 stating that the ambulance company was in breach of its contract with Tulare County. The contract performance report for the first quarter of 2018, which details if Tulare County’s five ambulance providers are meeting their required response times, showed that EDA was in compliance for the month of January but out of compliance in February and March. In January, EDA crews arrived within 10 minutes on 96.36% of their priority 1 and 2 calls. But in February and March, EDA was only able to meet the response time on 92.40% and 86.95% of its calls, respectively. EDA was the only provider that was out of compliance for any month in the first quarter.
Response times are tracked by the Central California Emergency Medical Services Agency (CCEMSA) which oversees contract compliance with ambulance providers in four Central Valley counties. Failure to meet the 95% benchmark in two consecutive months constituted a minor breach of contract. The real issue came in April, when EDA only met the response time on 91.39% of its calls. Failing to meet the performance standard in three straight months put the public ambulance district in major breach of its contract.
EDA was given a probationary period to continue operating as long as it could meet the requirements each month through July. Any additional months where EDA was non-compliant would have resulted in a hearing before the Tulare County Board of Supervisors to determine if the contract with EDA should be dissolved. Last year, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors slightly amended its agreement with ambulance providers through 2024. Under the agreement, the county may suspend a contractor until their termination is effective if they are in breach of contract.
EDA was able to bring its percent back into compliance in May by meeting the response time on 95.45% of its calls and June when it responded to 95.74% of its calls within the 10 minute-mark. Since August, EDA has been perfect in its response to urgent but non-life threatening calls, known as priority 3. The only month in the second half of the year EDA did not post the highest percentage for priority 3 calls was in July.
“I am happy to report that Exeter District Ambulance not only maintained compliance but did so at a high level, actually outperforming the other providers during this period,” Sodhy stated in his staff report.