The board's vote to negotiate a contract with Paramedics Plus of Tyler, Texas, came at the end of a four-hour hearing at which most speakers, including many paramedics, urged the county to continue to contract with American Medical Response, which is located in Greenwood Village, Colo., and has been operating in the county for nearly 40 years.
But county Health Care Services Agency Director Alex Briscoe recommended that the new five-year contract be awarded to Paramedics Plus because it submitted a lower bid and scored better in an analysis conducted by outside experts.
The contract is to work with the county's Emergency Medical Services division to provide emergency ambulance service throughout the county, except for the cities of Albany, Berkeley, Piedmont and Alameda, where local fire departments provide ambulance services.
Paramedics that work for AMR told the Board of Supervisors that they fear for their jobs and also are concerned that the quality of care will decline under Paramedics Plus.
But Paramedics Plus chief executive Tony Myers said that he would hire locally and would retain all the paramedics who currently work for AMR, as long as they pass a drug test.
Supervisor Scott Haggerty said, "I don't want to see one of them (current AMR paramedics) unemployed."
Haggerty said he would "hold their feet to the fire" and would be "really p...ed off if I'm deceived."
Myers said, "We'll keep our promises and our commitments."
He said Paramedics Plus is "very labor-friendly" and has been endorsed by the Alameda County Central Labor Council, the machinists' union and the local fire chiefs association.
The Health Care Services Agency will return to the board in a month or two to get final approval of the new contract for Paramedics Plus. The contract is for five years plus a possible five-year extension.