Inyo County CAO Nate Greenberg updated Inyo County Supervisors about the local EMS situation at their meeting Tuesday in Independence.
REACH Medical is currently serving the greater Bishop area on an emergency 30-day contract.
An RFP (Request for Proposals) has been issued, and the next contract, said Greenberg, is designed to cover greater Bishop through December, 2024.
There was a bidders’ conference held July 26 and bids are due back August 7.
Greenberg said there were two or three potential bidders (as if he couldn’t recall). Staff clarified: Two bidders.
A bid recommendation is anticipated to be made at the Board’s August 15 meeting.
What to expect? That a steep cost in ambulance service is here to stay.
REACH’s emergency 30-day contract includes a $25,000 subsidy.
Back in March when the County floated its initial RFP, there were two bidders. Coast2Coast Public Safety of Lake Havasu City, Ariz. and Emergency Ambulance Service of Brea, Calif.
Coast2Coast did not ask for a subsidy.
Emergency Ambulance Service asked for $33,600 per ambulance per week.
So, a no-brainer. The County went with Coast2Coast.
But Coast2Coast couldn’t make it because its contract wasn’t exclusive. And it didn’t anticipate getting frozen out by the cozy relationship between Northern Inyo Hospital and REACH Medical.
Coast2Coast (C2C) representative Sarah Morris told The Sheet two weeks ago (in our July 22 cover story) that the company never received any flight transports from NIH in the three months C2C operated in Bishop.
Hospital transports, said C2C Owner Jason Villa, are worth between $75,000-$150,000 per month.
So C2C is gone. And Emergency Ambulance Service and REACH Medical are the expected bidders on a new contract.
With that as backdrop, what did Inyo Supervisors do Tuesday? They pretended the iceberg wasn’t in front of them.
Although … perhaps iceberg jokes, in this age of climate warming, should be shelved in favor of Waterworld jokes. That was the 1995 Kevin Costner film where he’s sailing all over the place looking for a spit of land to call home (because the rising seas have submerged all the land masses). In the opening scene, Costner is seen filtering and then drinking his own urine. That’s his water supply.
Almost as pleasant for Costner, one imagines, as his recent divorce.
Supervisors take note.
Or apparently not. Because during Tuesday’s meeting, Supervisors could relax knowing they wouldn’t have to drink their own urine for at least another two weeks (until they had to deal with the next EMS bid).
In the meantime, Supervisors fell all over themselves (while remaining seated) applauding the efforts of their volunteer, rural fire departments, and even suggested giving out one-time $25,000 handouts to each.
This appeared to placate (for now) Big Pine Fire Chief Damon Carrington, who said the volunteer departments should be getting what REACH is getting.
But just wait until those bids are opened on August 7.
Olancha’s Chelsea Benbrook said EMS volunteers currently get paid $20 per call. Not sure that’s gonna satisfy anyone if Bishop officially becomes pay-to-play.
Supervisor Scott Marcellin was the only one to bring up the dirtiest word in Inyo County – taxes. “Will we need [to float] a property tax [to pay for this]? A sales tax? It’s beyond my comprehension,” he said.
But as Bishop City Manager Deston Dishion said in a phone interview Wednesday morning, “I don’t think there’s a person in greater Bishop who’d object to a $100/year tax to fund full-time Fire and EMS for the City of Bishop.”
Dishion added that service calls for Bishop’s Fire Department have approximately doubled over the past five years.
On Wednesday, Inyo County hosted a special budget workshop in the Board chambers in Independence.
Inyo’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Nate Greenberg presented a preliminary budget which included a 12% increase in projected labor cost (salaries and benefits) from approximately $50 million to $56 million.
Staff said employee healthcare costs jumped 19% alone.
The 12% doesn’t include an imminent jump in retiree pension costs.