After years of discontent, two Moorpark City Council members this week charged that the Ventura County emergency medical services network is too slow in dispatching ambulances to ill and injured residents.
Ambulance service is so slow in Moorpark that "residents are probably better off transporting the victims themselves than waiting for the ambulance," Moorpark Councilman Clint Harper said.
City officials are studying the cost of establishing an independent paramedic and ambulance service that will get to patients in less than 10 minutes, the county's required response time for larger metropolitan and urban areas.
County officials who monitor emergency calls say ambulances do respond within an adequate time frame for an area such as Moorpark--less than 15 minutes for most emergencies.
"Granted, 15 minutes is a lot of time to wait for an ambulance, but we have areas of the county that have to wait an hour and a half," said Barbara Brodfuehrer, administrator of the county's Emergency Medical Services Agency.
The county will do its first study of ambulance response times this year to determine if there are areas where emergency vehicles are taking too long to retrieve patients, Brodfuehrer said.
So far, Moorpark is the only city in the county where officials have complained about ambulance service, she added.
Steve Murphy, chief administrative officer for Pruner Ambulance, said the company is not slow to respond to emergency calls. When the county renewed its contract with the ambulance company last year, it found that in 91% of the cases, ambulances arrived in less than 15 minutes, he said.
Even with population growth, Moorpark does not require an ambulance base station, Murphy added. Moorpark issues an average of 43 calls a month and about a third of them are canceled before an ambulance arrives.
"It's a small town with a relatively low number of calls per month," Murphy said. Murphy added that city officials have not complained to the county nor to Pruner officials about slow response times.
The county bases its 15-minute requirement for emergency calls to Moorpark on population figures based on a census tract that includes less densely populated areas outside of the city, rather than the city limits.
In Moorpark, where officials have clocked some ambulance response times at 37 minutes, Councilwoman Eloise Brown said that method is now outdated.
"I believe that when you're trying to serve the area, and the area grows, then the geographic center of the population changes," Brown said.
In a city of more than 26,000 people, ambulances should be arriving as quickly in Moorpark as they do in neighboring Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks, Brown said.
Pruner ambulances must cross nine miles of highway to get to people in Moorpark, then drive eight miles to Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks.
Growing population may lengthen response times to Moorpark as roads become choked with rush-hour traffic, Harper said. Traffic on city roads leading to Moorpark is already backed up at rush hour.