City of Bishop struggles with Symons Ambulance non-payment for dispatch service

symonsambulance.jpgFor the past two years, Symons Ambulance of San Bernardino and Bishop was named by Inc. Magazine in its “List of 5,000” as one of the fastest growing companies in the nation with revenue this year listed at $3.9 million. Also this year, Symons has failed to pay the City of Bishop $13,000 for several months of ambulance dispatch services, failed to negotiate a new contract which expired in July, failed to cooperate with financial documents and discussions. Now the City faces the possibility of termination of dispatch service for Symons. This does not mean an end to ambulance service, but it could mean an end to the Bishop Police Department dispatching ambulances.

In a press release issued by the Bishop Police Department, officials say, “At the regularly scheduled City Council meeting of December 9th, Police Chief Chris Carter will ask the Bishop City Council to consider discontinuing providing dispatch service to Symons Emergency Specialties (Ambulance) effective January 1, 2014.”  The press release goes on to say that “This request from Chief Carter comes after several months of negotiations with Symons in an attempt to renew an existing contract.”

Symons Ambulance originated in Bishop with founder, Judd Symons. Now, it is a major company with millions in revenue, according to Inc. Magazine. The Symons Ambulance website says the company is the ambulance provider for Southern California areas, including a newly opened Loma Linda University Medical Center in Murrieta. The site also says Symons Ambulance raced the first ambulance in the Baja 1000 on November 18th and recently opened a division in Henderson, Nevada. So why the lack of response and payment to the City of Bishop?

We called Dr. Jeff Grange, President and CEO of Symons Ambulance. When asked about the delinquent payments to Bishop, Dr. Grange said he has been out of the country and needed more information before he could comment. We placed a call to Judd Symons. He did not return our call.

Two days later, Dawn Downs of Symons Ambulance emailed to Sierra Wave Media a brief response to the Bishop Police press release. It is one paragraph and available, along with the Bishop press release, at the end of this story. The Symons ambulance response, signed by Judd Symons, did not answer why payments have not been made nor a contract negotiated. The statement did say that the company has its own dispatch center in San Bernardino but had an agreement in Bishop for such services and has been renegotiating the contract. The statement claims it has insurance reimbursement problems but says they will continue to provide service in Bishop. It was unstated if Symons will pay the City or what dispatch services they will use.

The Police Department has continued to provide dispatch services in spite of non-payment and an un-renewed contract. The Bishop press release says Symons Ambulance had asked the City to reduce their charges, “citing low reimbursement rates and financial difficulties.” The release says Chief Carter brought this request along with proposed contract changes to the City Council in October. The release says, “At that time the City Council was willing to consider the requested changes, however also asked that Symons produce a financial statement verifying the need to reduce the amount the City charges Symons for providing this service.” At news time, Symons had not provided that documentation.

In spite of repeated requests to bring their account current, Symons has failed to pay the City since February and owes $13,000. The press release says initially, Symons Ambulance officials found the terms of the dispatch contract to be “reasonable and fair”. The release says, “While the City of Bishop recognizes and appreciates the valuable service to the public that Symons provides, we cannot ignore the fact that Symons is a private, for-profit business. As such, they are not entitled to have their operation funded with taxpayer monies.”

The press release says all of this does not mean that Symons will cease operations in Bishop. The Police Department, however, would not be responsible for dispatching ambulances to where they are needed. That responsibility would fall on Symons to determine.

The final paragraph of the Police Department press release says that “Chief Carter and the City of Bishop have gone to extraordinary measures in attempts to work with Symons in order to settle the matter and continue to assist Symons in providing services to our citizens. Unfortunately,” says the City, “it appears that an agreement will not be forthcoming.”

 BISHOP POLICE DEPARTMENT PRESS RELEASE:

City Council to Consider Termination of Dispatch Service to Symons

Emergency Specialties (Ambulance)

At the regularly scheduled City Council Meeting of December 9, 2013, Chief Chris Carter of the Bishop Police Department will ask the Bishop City Council to consider discontinuing providing dispatch service to Symons Emergency Specialties (Ambulance), effective January 1, 2014.  This request from Chief Carter comes after several months of negotiations with Symons in an attempt to renew an existing contract.

In July of 2012, Symons Ambulance and the City of Bishop entered into a contract whereby the Police Department would dispatch Symons ambulances throughout the greater Bishop area.

That contract expired in July of 2013 and the Police Department has continued to provide dispatching of ambulances while attempts to renegotiate the contract were ongoing.   During the negotiations process Symons Emergency Specialties, which is based out of San Bernardino, had made a request for the City to reduce their charges, citing low reimbursement rates and financial difficulties.  Chief Carter brought this request along with other proposed changes to the contract before the Bishop City Council in October.  At that time the City Council was willing to consider the requested changes, however also asked that Symons produce a financial statement verifying the need to reduce the amount the City charges Symons for providing this service.

As of today, Symons Emergency Specialties has not responded to the City’s request to provide documentation of financial hardship.  Additionally, Symons owes the City approximately $13,000 and has not remitted payment for services to the City of Bishop since February of 2013, despite repeated requests that they attempt to bring their account into balance.

When the contract was originally constructed, a representative of Symons met with Chief Carter and City Administrator Keith Caldwell.  The terms and conditions of the contract were determined to be reasonable and fair and thereafter agreed to by all parties.  While the City of Bishop recognizes and appreciates the valuable service to the public that Symons provides, we cannot ignore the fact that Symons is a private, for-profit business.  As such, they are not entitled to have their operation funded with tax payer monies.  Even where one Government Agency is providing similar service to another, the costs for those services must be covered.  Currently the Town of Mammoth Lakes Police Department contracts with Mono County for law enforcement dispatching services.  The Town of Mammoth Lakes is contractually obligated to pay Mono County for this service.

This does not mean that Symons will cease operations and there will be no ambulance service, it only means that the Bishop Police Department will not be responsible for dispatching ambulances to where they are needed.  This responsibility will now fall back upon Symons and they will determine how best to accomplish this task.

Chief Carter and the City of Bishop have gone to extraordinary measures in attempts to work with Symons in order to settle the matter and continue to assist Symons in providing service to our citizens.  Unfortunately, it appears that an agreement will not be forthcoming.  Should the Bishop City Council agree to Chief Carter’s request, the Police Department will discontinue service effective January 1, 2014.

SYMONS AMBULANCE STATEMENT:

Symons Ambulance remains committed to providing the residents of Bishop with the highest quality ambulance service.   Symons Ambulance has it own dispatch center in San Bernardino, however, in order to provide better service to the local community, Symons had an agreement with the Bishop Police Department for dispatch services.  Due to increasingly decreased reimbursements for emergency services, Symons has been in the process of renegotiating the dispatch contract and already made the first payment for services rendered.   The residents of Bishop can continue to rely upon Symons Ambulance to provide them with timely, compassionate, high quality medical care.

Judd Symons

 

 

21 Comments
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Frank
Frank
8 years ago

So we are to compare the transfer of government funds from one entity to another with this? The Public Service Access point (911) has a duty to act and assist with ambulance service. Either way, the call information has to be passed along. Why put too many hurdles in there?… Read more »

Frank
Frank
8 years ago

Believe me, it serves this city and county no service to chase down private industry for money to fund tax payer services. The 911 dispatch system is required and funded. Even if Symons dispatched their own calls, they have to come through a public entities system. It’s unnecessary redundancy to… Read more »

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
8 years ago
Reply to  Frank

We will note that the Bishop press release, which is posted on our website, does point out that the Mammoth Police Department pays Mono County for dispatch services.
Benett Kessler

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
8 years ago
Reply to  Frank

Ridgecrest PD operates it’s own dispatch separate from that of Kern County or CHP, and pays Kern County an annual fee to use a part of their radio network to communicate with their police vehicles and officers.

NewDay
NewDay
8 years ago

This issue was a centerpiece of Jeff Griffith’s platform for election to the Board of Supervisors. I suspect (hope!) he’s working on the county taking it over. The service is too valuable to lose locally. Dispatch out of San Bernardino? They would have no local knowledge of our streets, businesses,… Read more »

Mark
Mark
8 years ago
Reply to  NewDay

You might have a point about local knowledge, I forget not everyone knows Inyo/Mono County as well as me

I have no use for anyone that can’t find an address when given one

Mark
Mark
8 years ago
Reply to  NewDay

No where in history has government accomplished the same thing as private sector business for less money. If you want Inyo County to run the ambulances it’s going to cost you more then it is now.

Ken Warner
Ken Warner
8 years ago
Reply to  Mark

Ever see the Hoover Dam? Three Gorges Dam? Ever hear of the Manhattan Project? LA Aqueduct?

How about our interstate highway system? Medicare — the most efficient heath insurance agency in the country? University of California?

But why do I bother?

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
8 years ago
Reply to  Mark

That is not true. I am an economist by trade and make a living determining what things cost the government. I can tell you with authority that government owned depots and government scientists and engineers can perform work for much lower cost than their private sector counterparts. Burdened labor rates,… Read more »

TBone
TBone
8 years ago
Reply to  Mark

No where in history, except a few small areas, e.g. railways, health care, and prisons.

Bemused
Bemused
8 years ago
Reply to  Mark

And the asinine comment of the day award goes to…

WOW
WOW
8 years ago

Inyo County Ambulance sounds good.

Mark
Mark
8 years ago

Bishop P.D. should have never got into the ambulance dispatching business in the first place. That’s something that clearly could be handled in the private sector. I suggest Symons Ambulance use digital 395 resources and dispatch Eastern Sierra ambulances via voip/two way radio technology from their office in San Bernardino.… Read more »

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
8 years ago
Reply to  Mark

It’s more like $1400 per month. They have not paid since last February.
BK

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
8 years ago
Reply to  Mark

Police impounds are typically handled by several tow truck companies. They are put on a rotation where each time a new tow job comes up, the next company in line is called. Each gets it’s turn. The dispatching of ambulances could be handled in a similar manner, divvying the work… Read more »

Healthy Options
Healthy Options
8 years ago

It’s not personal until YOU need the ambulance! YOU try owning, maintaining, training and housing this service 24-7-365. How the hell can a Police Department discontinue service? They are here for Public SAFETY. OH, I forgot they seem to only be here for the retirement and benefits. Bishop should thank… Read more »

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
8 years ago

Ambulance services are a racket. Don’t kid yourself they are in it as a public service. Find out what an ambulance service charges. We recently had a drunk driver back out of his driveway, back across the street, up the curb, across a yard and into the bedroom of the… Read more »

TS
TS
8 years ago

A racket indeed. My wife was ‘talked into’ getting an ambulance ride for a hospital transfer for a minor event. I told her not to do it, and that I would drive her, but she said it was explained to her by hospital staff that it was ‘required’. So Symons… Read more »

Really?
Really?
8 years ago

First, let’s differentiate the operational service from the professionals that perform the service. When the ambulance is called the paramedic and the EMT respond to help. They deliver that help with the guidance of protocols that they must follow. They have zero control, and probably don’t even know, what the… Read more »

SSturtevant
SSturtevant
7 years ago

Desert Tortoise, Gotta say that the ambulance industry on a whole is NOT a racket… However, there is a considerable amount of racketeering-like behavior. But I’ve worked with the folks at Symons, and they’re honorable people. I’ve personally worked in the industry for 37 years, and can say that there… Read more »

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
8 years ago

There is no contract, it expired. The two parties cannot come to terms on a new contract and the contractor owes the city money. The solution is simple. Contract with another ambulance service provider like AMR (just an example), and take Symons to court to get the money Bishop is… Read more »