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Jan 11, 2010

Dispute Over Ambulance Service Monopoly And Rising Fees For Willow Springs Raceway Means There Will Be No Ambulances At WSMC Races This Coming Weekend

A dispute between the sole ambulance company authorized by Kern County to serve Willow Springs International Raceway (WSIR) and track management means that the Rosamond, California facility does not intend to have ambulances on-site at the opening round of the 2010 Willow Springs Motorcycle Club (WSMC) season this coming weekend.

WSIR and WSMC owner Bill Huth says recent increases in the hourly rates charged by Hall Ambulance have left some clubs that operate at Willow reeling financially. And by county law, if Willow chooses to hire an ambulance to stand by at the track, it must use Hall Ambulance, Huth says.

It is a political standoff between Huth, whose pioneering, independent streak is well-known, and the county's system of providing monopolies for ambulance services in designated areas. Kern County's Board of Supervisors set out "exclusive ambulance service operational areas for emergency, non-emergency, and stand-by ambulance service throughout the County," to "ensure competent, efficient and adequate care is provided within the County," according to documents available on the Kern County website:
~www.co.kern.ca.us/ems/AmbOrd812.pdf~

Huth says the "operational area" that includes WSIR is served by Hall Ambulance. The company, founded in 1971, provides exclusive 911 paramedic service for 87 percent of Kern County, according to the company website (~www.hallambulanceservice.com/corpindex.html~). It is the largest privately owned emergency and non-emergency medical transportation provider in California, and the 30th-largest in the United States.

Hall is owned by Harvey L. Hall, mayor of Bakersfield, by far the largest city in Kern County, and also the home of the Kern County Board of Supervisors, which issues the exclusive ambulance service area contracts.

Huth says that rather than pay the increased fees, the track will hire an EMT to remain on-site for the races and to ride in the crash truck, which reaches crashed riders first. The EMT will do immediate first aid at the scene of an accident, and can call in a helicopter from Bakersfield or an ambulance from a dispatch center in Rosamond which is located an eight-minute drive from the track if the injury is serious.

Huth says he is infuriated that the cost of a Basic Life Support ambulance increased from $100 to $109 an hour, and that the cost of an Advanced Life Support ambulance went to $140 an hour. It is but the latest in a series of cost increases for ambulance service. One track-day provider said that under the Kern County monopoly system the cost of providing ambulance service at the track has nearly doubled in the past five years.

Roadracingworld.com will provide more information as it becomes available.
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