CATHEDRAL CITY — The stage is set for what promises to be a robust and informative discussion on the future of this community’s ambulance service. Fire Chief Paul Wilson is prepped to give a presentation to the City Council on Wednesday, Oct. 9.
No vote is scheduled. The chief’s presentation is for information, discussion and direction only.
On May 18, 2019 the City Council requested a comprehensive overview of the fire departments’ preparedness, prevention, emergency response and ambulance services delivered in the community. The presentation was put on hold until after the August special election and a full City Council was seated.
The comprehensive presentation was prompted primarily when Councilmember Ernesto Gutierrez questioned whether the city could save money by eliminating the 30-year-old ambulance service and contracting instead with American Medical Response (AMR). The Coloradp-based company provides and manages community-based medical transportation services, including emergency (911), non-emergency and managed transportation, fixed-wing air ambulance and disaster response.
Gutierrez raised the question during a discussion of the biennial budget.
At the same budget discussion, Councilmember Raymond Gregory said, “We shouldn’t have any sacred cows. Every one of our operations should be subject to review. This is certainly a very serious one.”
Gregory, who represents District 5, added that he would welcome further discussion, which is now the comprehensive presentation.
During her campaign, then-candidate Rita Lamb told Uken Report that, “Cathedral City maintains its own ambulance service and I will continue to support those services.”
Gutierrez was widely ridiculed and chastised, primarily on social media for daring to make such a suggestion. City Councilmembers also received at least one letter in which they are cautioned of the misinformation Gutierrez has. You may read the letter by clicking here.
Gutierrez said that to him it is simply being a good steward of the city’s revenue and taxpayers’ money.
At the the time Gutierrez said,
“Our city has a $44 million dollar annual budget, yet we have a hard time allocating money to do many things for our residents,” Gutierrez said. “For instance, we would have to struggle (financially) if we were to open the Cathedral City High School pool for our residents for the summer. We have no money to repair out streets. We do not have the funds to open a dog park. We are $70 million in outstanding liabilities, plus an additional $25 million. We must explore all options to see if we can save money, so we can use those (savings) to actually do things for our residents.”
Gutierrez, who represents District 4, said his No. 1 priority is residents’ safety.
“I will not jeopardize the lives of anyone in order to cut cost,” Gutierrez told Uken Report. “Having said that, I do not feel … it should be out of the question to have a presentation and explore our options of how our finances would be like it we were to consider transitioning to American Medical Response “AMR”, ambulance services. We should have an open mind and not just close our eyes and go with the flow.”
Cathedral City is one of several cities in the Coachella that has its own ambulance service. Other cities are Indio, Indian Wells, Palm Desert, and Rancho Mirage, Wilson said. In 2018, Cathedral City provided a total of 3,314 ambulance transports, according to the Fire Department’s 2018 Annual Report.
AMR provides emergency medical transport service for eastern Riverside County, California, serving the cities of Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Coachella and unincorporated Coachella Valley.
- Raymond Gregory: Raymond Gregory
- Ernesto Gutierrez: City of Cathedral City
- Cathedral City Ambulance: YouTube