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Falck ambulance provider staffing shortage, service issues persist

San Diego Fire Department considers bringing on second ambulance provider to make up the difference.

SAN DIEGO — San Diego's ambulance provider is continuing to face staffing issues and falling short on providing service. CBS 8 previously reported that the city was even considering action if Falck didn't make drastic improvements.

"We're not seeing any signs of changes or improvements," said Colin Stowell, the San Diego Fire Department Chief.

Stowell said fire engines are staying at calls when Falck doesn't arrive in a timely manner.

"We've got paramedics on all of our fire engines and trucks, so patients are getting the care they need. They're just not getting the transport they need as soon as they need it," he said.

Falck is supposed to provide 900 hours of service a day but fell short by 10,000 paramedic unit hours during October, November and December. 

Repeated response time failures have stacked up to more than $900,000 in penalties that Falck must pay the city. The paramedic shortage is a nationwide issue. Falck has struggled to recruit and retain staff which prompted them to offer a hiring bonus in late November.

"We've had real good success with our $50,000 signing bonus and are still hiring for paramedics and EMTs," said Jeff Behm, the managing director of Falck San Diego.

The company reports it brought on 24 paramedics thanks to the bonus, but the fire chief says it's not enough. CBS 8 asked Stowell if they'd consider ending the contract with Falck.

"That would be the last resort. For them to be in default of the contract and us to find them in breach there's a lot of steps we'd need to take," he said.

He said San Diego doesn't own any ambulances or have the personnel to function without an ambulance provider. For now the city plans to keep its contract with Falck and may bring on a second ambulance company as well. The fire department is working with Falck on a plan that can be brought to the city council next month.

"To make sure we're enhancing how things are done in San Diego and make things better for EMS," Behm said.

Despite the staffing issues, Stowell said he doesn't want the public to be extremely concerned about emergency response and that San Diegans will get the care they need.

WATCH RELATED: San Diego considering action if ambulance provider Falck doesn't drastically improve 

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