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City OKs ambulance deal, admits it hasn't tracked performance

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By David Giuliani

The Las Vegas City Council has approved a new three-year contract with a private ambulance provider. But officials admitted that they hadn’t been closely tracking the company’s performance over the last couple of years.

Albuquerque-based Superior Ambulance has been providing emergency medical services to both the city and the county since 2008. That was after the city and the county ended their relationships with Santa Fe-based Rocky Mountain EMS because of concerns with that company’s performance.

At least week’s City Council meeting, Fire Chief Phil Mares acknowledged that the city never created an ambulance oversight committee to monitor Superior’s performance, as called for in the contract. But he said he has had a good relationship with Superior’s local manager, Gabriel Serna, and calls him up whenever he hears about problems.

Mares said Superior hasn’t turned in performance reports to the city, apparently because the company has had difficulty getting certain information from the city’s police dispatchers.

The city and the county were upset with the previous provider, Rocky, alleging that it had been understaffing its local ambulance service. The city contended that in three instances, Rocky had shown up with only employee staffing its ambulance.

During last week’s council meeting, Serna said Superior had three paramedic-level ambulances on hand at all times for the city and the county.

“We do take pride in customer service. Our service response times and quality of care are up there near the top,” he said.

City Councilman David Romero suggested the city take over the ambulance service.

City Manager Timothy Dodge said he had thought about it, but concluded that it would cost more for the city to run the service.

“We would operate at a lesser efficiency,” he said.

The council voted 3-1 for the contract, with Romero dissenting.