From a July 24 press release written by Darcy Ellis, Assistant Clerk of the Inyo County Board of Supervisors:
Inyo County has signed a 30-day agreement for emergency medical services (EMS) with REACH Air Medical Services effective July 24.
A 90-day agreement with Coast2Coast Ambulance Services expired July 23 – a week after the company announced it could not continue providing EMS services to the greater Bishop area without a subsidy.
A C2C representative told the Inyo County Board of Supervisors at its July 18 meeting that the company was not able to bring in the revenue it had initially anticipated, due to the non-exclusive nature of the Operating Area around Bishop.
Prior to C2C’s announcement, the County was prepared to renew the C2C EMS contract through December, 2024 while the search for and analysis of long-term options were in progress. However, C2C’s announcement came with the news that it could only continue to operate with some form of financial assurance – effectively $60,000/mo. – which would cover their operating costs and payroll.
Given the time constraints, County staff underwent the informal bidding process outlined in the County’s Purchasing Policy, seeking bids from parties interested in stepping in to provide EMS for a 30-day period while a full RFP could be developed and released. Both of these activities took place on July 20.
The County received two bids: one from C2C and one from REACH. Once there was a second bid, C2C withdrew its bid. The County subsequently entered into a 30-day agreement with the other respondent, REACH, for a cost of $25,000 through August 22, 2023.
In the meantime, responses to the RFP for interim EMS service (from August 22, 2023 – December 31, 2024) are due back to the County by August 7. The County will consider its options at the August 8 Board of Supervisors meeting.
With the above as backdrop, the Inyo/Mono County Emergency Medical Care Committee met on Monday evening at the county office building in Bishop.
The meeting was chaired by REACH Medical’s Mike Patterson.
Lack of a quorum did not dissuade Patterson from calling the meeting to order.
Ambulance service was not agendized but then later discussed during “public comment.”
Patterson explained that the agenda had to be posted 72-hours in advance and that he couldn’t have anticipated needing to agendize the rapidly evolving EMS issue.
This despite a rather involved Inyo Board discussion (which Patterson participated in) which took place Tuesday, July 18. That would appear to be prompt enough.
“Ambulance provider update” had been agendized for their previous, April meeting. Also of note from the minutes of the April meeting – while a brief description of agendized items was included, no notes were provided regarding “public comment.”
It would appear, therefore, that discussion of items under “public comment” may be a loophole to avoid reporting what is said during public comment.
That said, here are my shorthand minutes from Monday.
BP Fire Chief Damon Carrington: I found out secondhand about the switch to REACH. That’s just wrong.
Jen Roeser: Offering subsidy is a slippery slope, but we needed to sustain EMS service for greater Bishop.
Mike Patterson: We had 46 hours to get a second ambulance up here. We’re committed to this community
Chelsea Benbrook: Bishop’s failure drove us to subsidy and resources have followed. To Patterson: When the time comes, are you going to stick up for us (rural fire departments/providers)?
Scott Marcellin: I’m not going to have a constituent die because there’s no ambulance. I didn’t know the subsidy money would be going to REACH. I don’t want to give someone with exclusivity [operational monopoly] money.
Carrington: Should I just say my ambulance is gonna fail? What’s gonna happen then? Translation: How much do I have to squeak to merit the same grease?
Inyo CAO Nate Greenberg: Throwing money at it isn’t a solution anyone wanted. EOAs (Exclusive Operating Areas) don’t typically come with a subsidy. We know you volunteers are struggling. But we need partnerships and data – not a battle. I don’t like feeling on the defensive and under attack. I inherited this mess. What we did is not meant to be offensive to anyone else and it’s not about supporting one community over another.
Inyo HHS Director Marilyn Mann: By the time Coast2Coast brought their concerns to us, it was a “subsidy or else” situation.
Then Greenberg decided to “call out” The Sheet.
He said the paper had suggested that he and Marilyn had “dropped the ball” in regard to the EMS situation, and this couldn’t be further from the truth.
So I replied and said, technically, this is not true. I didn’t say you dropped the ball. I quoted someone as saying you had dropped the ball. And that person just happens to be your boss.
Greenberg said that his boss told him he had been misquoted.
The boss – Marcellin – was seated four chairs to my right. So I turned to face him and ask what gives.
Marcellin immediately dropped his gaze to the floor and wouldn’t look at me.
So I told them they are both liars. Because Marcellin damn well knows what he said. And Greenberg damn well knows it’s the truth.
Consider. As reported last week, REACH Medical’s cozy relationship with Northern Inyo Hospital effectively froze out Coast2Coast and drove them out of business.
The upshot: REACH gets rewarded with a subsidy to entrench its monopoly status.
REACH’s Lisa Davis effectively closed discussion with a final impassioned speech.
She said REACH had had just 46 hours to bring up, outfit and staff ALS (Advanced Life Support) and BLS (Basic Life Support) units to Bishop. The $25,000 won’t even cover the payroll for the month. “We’re not in this for the money,” she said, and she would’ve rather played with her grandchildren than work all weekend.
She then complained that the other paper (Inyo Register) had gotten her name wrong.
Chelsea Benbrook said she was happy the $25,000 went to REACH versus Coast2Coast. She did not elaborate.