Ambulance partnership denies wrongdoing despite audit - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Ambulance partnership denies wrongdoing despite audit criticizing finances

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - San Diego's partner for providing emergency medical services Tuesday denied doing anything wrong despite a critical audit.

Rural/Metro San Diego and the city formed San Diego Medical Services in 1997. A report by Auditor Eduardo Luna said lax oversight of the partnership may have cost the city nearly $11 million in reimbursements annually.

Separately, the audit called two SDMS transactions worth a combined $10 million are questionable, and various fees and overhead costs paid to Rural/Metro "may be invalid, inflated, potentially duplicative in nature or not properly substantiated."

"Rural/Metro is confident in its accounting for SDMS and believes there is no validity to these claims," the company said in a prepared statement. "Rural/Metro and the city are working through a process to identify and resolve all of the issues raised in the audit report with the assistance of a neutral mediator."

The auditor's report made 11 recommendations, urging the city to:

-- review current and previous SDMS revenues and expenses to make sure reimbursements to Rural/Metro were appropriate, reasonable and substantiated by sufficient documentation;

-- modify the governance of the venture; and

-- develop a comprehensive plan to monitor the partnership's finances.

The director of the city's Administration Department, Debra Fischle-Faulk, said the city's emergency medical agreement was being renegotiated to have a more traditional contractual relationship, instead of a joint venture.

The contract will address most of the findings and recommendations in the auditor's report, she said.

According to Rural/Metro's Web site, it also provides ambulance services to Del Mar, Encinitas, Rancho Santa Fe, Solana Beach and the county of San Diego. Overall, the company says it works with 440 communities in 20 states.

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