A Hostile Takeover Of Emergency Services

by Mark Scaramella, August 23, 2017

THE SUPES VOTED 3-1 TUESDAY to proceed with the privatization of county dispatch services and inland ambulance services. The beneficiariary of the county’s latest give away will be the global Danish ambulance and medical services giant, the Falck Group.

SUPERVISOR John McCowen wisely tried to convince his fellow Supervisors (Gjerde was absent) that it would be disruptive to privatize both dispatch services and ambulance services at the same time, suggesting that the dispatch Request For Propsal (RPF or bid) be held up for some period before being issued.

BUT EVEN AFTER the Calfire Chief, AV Chief Andres Avila (representing both the AV Fire Department and the Mendocino Fire Chiefs Associations Communications Committee) and the Sheriff said they were happy with Calfire’s dispatch services, Supervisors Dan Hamburg, Carre Brown and Georgeanne Croskey (who should not even be voting on matters she won’t have to live with because she’s leaving the County and her seat at the first of the year well before the results of this decision will kick in) said they believed putting dispatch out to bid (with Sonoma County’s urban-oriented Coastal Valley EMS outfit managing the process) might save some “taxpayer dollars,” seldom a primary consideration with these people.

EVERYONE DIRECTLY CONCERNED with emergency dispatch says they’re happy with CalFire so three supervisors say, Let’s put this vital service out to bid where a mammoth outside corporation will snatch it up, and when we’re all at their mercy they will, of course, raise rates until….until they milked the Mendo cow dry and we’re left with Dixie Cups and long spools of thread as our emergency services communications system.

THE THINKING of the three privatizers seemed to be that since dispatch and ambulance is on the agenda we have to do it — why did McCowen even bring it up? We don’t want to think about it anymore. It’s a done deal and we prefer to keep it a done deal.

McCOWEN tried a  last minute suggestion to put off the decision until Supervisor Dan Gjerde was present, but the Falck-loving Three wouldn’t hear of it.

WE COULDN’T HELP NOTICE two large men sitting next to each other in the audience, one wearing a Reach (air-ambulance) shirt (now owned by Junk Bond kings Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts) and the other even bigger guy wearing a Falck shirt. The larger man seemed to be snoozing but the less large man was busily taking notes as the board considered McCowen’s proposal. Neither of the big boys spoke.

PREDICTION: FALCK, having created the problem that the Exclusive (Ambulance) Operating Area (EOA) is supposed to solve by butting into Ukiah uninvited, will low-ball their bid, get the EOA (and dispatch if they can package their bid to look like a bargain), skimp on services, generate complaints from hospitals, fire departments, the Sheriff, etc. (much like back in the Ortner Mental Health privatization days), receive the usual minimal oversight characteristic of Mendo’s civic operations, claim that they’re not being paid enough to continue with the contract, threaten to leave unless they’re paid more (with any alternative already driven out of business or out of the area), jack up their prices and continue skimping on services while cherry picking the most lucrative ambulance runs for themselves via their control over dispatch. And, with Coastal Valley EMS at their side, Falck will impose more difficult and costly service requirements on various rural public and private (volunteer) ambulance and emergency response agencies in inland Mendocino which may eventually force them into the Falck orbit.

UNDERSHERIFF RANDY JOHNSON said that he was very happy with Calfire dispatch, not only that but the Calfire dispatch facility on the Willits Grade was an important back up communications and dispatch center in the event that communications went down in the Ukiah Valley for Sheriff’s dispatch. Johnson also noted that since there will still be some form of fire dispatch, turning it over to a new player would just introduce another layer of possible confusion in already tense situations.

NONE OF THIS professional advice to hold off on privatizing Calfire Dispatch held any sway with the Falck Three Supervisors. We expect that by sometime in 2018 or early 2019 Mendo will start spelling F-A-L-C-K as O-R-T-N-E-R, but without even a Redwood Quality Management Company around to pick up the pieces. (Mark Scaramella)

ON LINE COMMENTS regarding Tuesday’s 3-1 Board of Supervisors vote to put both inland ambulance services and County-wide dispatch out to bid:

(1) re: FALCK. Why are the county supervisors so keen on outsourcing everything but their own jobs? Falck laid off almost its entire staff in Petaluma after they gobbled up a competitor. So now the current dispatchers, who are county residents and know the rural areas, will likely lose their jobs, too. Falck must have done some heavy romancing. I wonder how this came about. I’m glad you’re looking into it. I would like to hear a response from the board as to why they ignored safety personnel and why they are turning their backs on local workers yet again. We need new management who realizes that privatization of services is not the way to keep this county viable. They have paved the way to higher unemployment and higher costs for services again and no one seems to care. Sounds familiar, eh?

(2) The AVA is probably right on this one. But there has to be more to the story.

(3) Hard to believe we’re privatizing again, the smoke barely cleared from Ortner. We apparently need to make David Cay Johnston required reading for supervisors. (I think it was his book “Fine Print” that tells the story of municipal water being privatized in a California town — Boulder Creek, if I remember right — and how that fiasco played out. Not good, and there are many other examples in his book of similar privatization nightmares. You would think people would learn, but that appears to be a very slow process. All his books I highly recommend.) Anyway, kudos to Supervisor McCowen for resisting this madness.

(4) Croskey should have recused herself (actually she should resign) and they should have waited for Gjerde to participate in such an important issue. Smells like a back room deal to me, in other words, follow the money. Supervisors McCowen and, to a certain extent, Gjerde, seem to be the only ones who have the best interests of the residents of Mendo County at heart and are not rubber stamps. The Supervisors are never held accountable for their actions because they are secure in their reelectability. Exhibit A: Grand Jury findings that are critical of their decisions but are openly condemned and ultimately ignored. Maybe it’s time for DA Eyster to look into this and the Ortner debacle.

12 Responses to A Hostile Takeover Of Emergency Services

  1. james marmon Reply

    August 23, 2017 at 11:20 am

    Support AB 1250, Privatization Standards: Protect Taxpayers, Workers, and the Public

    “Private companies shouldn’t be allowed to get rich off of taxpayers without accountability. AB 1250 will protect taxpayers, the public, and workers by establishing strong standards for when counties contract out — from ambulance and emergency services, to protection of foster children, and mental health care.

    All of these are standards that the State of California has abided by for 35 years. At the heart of this bill are the reasonable standards already in place for state agencies, school districts, community colleges and libraries. Standards that create basic good government practices in relation to contracts for these public agencies. That’s why it’s perplexing that the counties are fighting so hard to be exempted from these SAME STANDARDS.

    There are huge problems with the way counties contract out services now. Companies who contract for the county often entice local governments with contract bids that look like they’ll save money, only to jack up the prices with “change orders” as soon as the deal is in place. These secretive deals also fail to hold private contractors accountable for getting the job done safely.

    SIGN-ON and Tell your legislator to vote YES on AB 1250, and to protect our community services – and our tax dollars.

    “AB 1250 is common-sense legislation that will hold counties and private contractors accountable to the public. Please Vote YES on AB 1250”


  2. Medic3 Reply

    August 24, 2017 at 9:02 am

    As usual the AVA is spouting off on things it doesn’t understand. Ever heard of eithics? Responsible journalism? No, I don’t suppose you would have… A competitive RFP is the only Mendo INLAND EMS will survive. Whole Falck may have forced an RFP by their entrance into the 911 system (at the same time as UAS) the citizens were receiving sub-standard care stuck in last century. EMS CANNOT subscribe to the idea of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” EMS must evolve and improve with the rest of the world. You clearly have no understanding of how EMS works, and I suggest you get educated or enter into a constructive dialogue before you distribute this misinformation to an already misinformed populace.

    • james marmon Reply

      August 24, 2017 at 10:21 am

      Mental-cino official don’t really adhere to all that RFP nonsense. Redwood Quality Management Company (RQMC) has been contracting “adult” mental health since July 1, 2016 without a RFP ever going out to bid and were just given another contract on July 1, 2017 for yet another year to July 1, 2018. Supervisor McCowen hopes that the required by law RFP will be completed by then, I bet RQMC wins that bid hands down. The fix will be in.

    • Mark Scaramella Reply

      August 24, 2017 at 10:29 am

      Not convincing. Specifics please. For example: how will dispatch be improved by privatization? Provide some stats on how ALS actually improves patient outcomes over BLS. Explain why Napa County dumped Coastal Valley EMS and how wrong they were. Explain why Sonoma County decided to start over with their emergency services ordinance when confronted with negative impacts to rural fire departments. Explain why Undersheriff Randy Johnson and all the local fire departments are wrong when they disagree with some or all of the County’s privatization plans. Your complaint is all rhetorical which means you have pre-judged opinions and are more interested in insults than “constructive dialogue.”

      • james marmon Reply

        August 24, 2017 at 11:58 am

        Mr. Scaramella, have you seen the County’s recent letter to Mike McGuire regarding Mendocino County’s privatized services?


      • Medic3 Reply

        August 29, 2017 at 3:29 pm

        Fair. Perhaps I was quick to insult, although you’re certainly not without fault. I’ve never claimed dispatch with be improved, although it’s possible. Have you seen how privatized REDCOM works? It’s pretty slick, but may not work for Mendo.
        Stats simply don’t exist for ALS over BLS. Studies exist, but don’t prove anything conclusively. However, I would rather have a paramedic work on me for the hour ride in from Boonville, then an EMT, simply for the fact that paramedics can do so much more.
        I don’t have any love for Falck, or Medstar necessarily. But I am for quality care in EMS, regardless of who’s been around longer.

  3. james marmon Reply

    August 25, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    California Today: Battle Over a Bill Reaches the State Senate

    “The contracting measure was introduced by Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer, a Democrat from Los Angeles, who is a former local vice president at the S.E.I.U.”

    “That it’s gotten as far as it has, she added, “speaks to the strength and power of the unions in California.”

    -New York Times-


    James Marmon MSW
    Former President
    SEIU 1021, Mendocino County

  4. Bruce McEwen Reply

    August 26, 2017 at 2:09 pm

    Scaramella va alla guerra

    Colla lancia et la rotella

    La zombero boro borombetta,

    La boro borombo…

    Scaramella fa la gala…

    In his ears roll the stutter

    of the military drummer.

    • james marmon Reply

      August 27, 2017 at 12:40 pm

      Mr. McEwen, I want to help you, please contact me.

      James Marmon MSW
      Personal Growth Consultant

      ‘don’t just go through it, grow through it’

  5. David Cay Johnston Reply

    September 1, 2017 at 6:57 am

    Thanks for the mention of my books.

    The Fine Print is the right book, but the town that took back its water from a distant corporate owner is Felton, not Boulder Creek, both in the San Lorenzo Valley in Santa Cruz County, which I just visited.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *