EL CENTRO – Imperial County officials announced in a press release Saturday, Feb. 9, that it received an early termination notice from Schaefer Ambulance, locally known as Gold Cross, effective July 14, 2020. The current agreement was to end Dec. 31, 2022.
“We were notified that Schaefer Ambulance was going through financial difficulties,” said Chris Herring, emergency medical services manager of the Imperial County Health Department during a telephone interview Friday, Feb 8.
An indication of financial difficulties emerged when employee benefits, affecting about 85 employees, were terminated effective Jan. 31, 2019. Gold Cross ambulance provides services throughout Imperial County, except Calexico, according to Herring.
In the meantime, Schaefer Ambulance is looking into restoring employee benefits. However, there was no timeline indicated for when this would occur.
“County officials have been closely monitoring the situation to ensure that all efforts to remedy the situation are pursued, including ensuring a stable workforce and the emergency response needs of the community,” stated an Imperial County press release.
“It is important for the public and our partner agencies to know that the level of ambulance services will continue. The number one priority at this point for the County of Imperial is the public’s health and safety,” said Ryan Kelley, chairman of the Imperial County Board of Supervisors.
Furthermore, the County is closely monitoring Gold Cross Ambulance operations — including staffing, deployment of ambulance units, and response time standards to ensure that the current system demands are met.
A visit to the Schaefer/Gold Cross Ambulance office in El Centro on Sunday afternoon was met by employees who were not authorized to speak for the company. The ambulance driver at El Centro Regional Medical Center Emergency Room politely declined the interview.
“We are monitoring the situation … making sure there is stability in the County,” said Herring. Otherwise, there will be contingency plans to ensure the stability of services in Imperial County.
According to Herring in the press release, “I feel confident that the contingency plans that we have in place will cover all areas of the County and will ensure ambulance services remain at levels our community requires and deserves.”
“The Imperial County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Agency is responsible for planning, implementing, and evaluating the EMS system in Imperial County in order to ensure the highest quality of emergency medical care for the residents of and visitors to Imperial County,” the press release stated. “As the situation progresses, County officials are committed to sharing information with the public and partner agencies.”