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Emergency response changes coming to Santa Barbara Co., board votes to end ambulance contract

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Posted at 5:18 PM, Apr 04, 2023

The County of Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors voted not to extend the current ambulance contract.

This means changes will be made to local emergency responses within Santa Barbara County.

With the decision to not extend the contract, the board directed staff to explore a model that allows more than one ambulance company to respond to calls in Santa Barbara County.

The county fire department already provides ambulance services for a few locations, but private contractor AMR was handling the majority of emergency medical responses throughout Santa Barbara County.

The Board said their decision was based on their desire to improve the already existing EMS system. They say this includes reinvestment in the community by providing more ambulances for 911 response, and dedicated inter-facility. transport ambulances, community paramedicine, and community and financial oversight at no additional cost to the community.

The Santa Barbara County Fire Department currently provides paramedic ambulance transport services for UCSB, Vandenberg Village (Lompoc Valley), New Cuyama, and the HWY 166 corridor.

In a press release, the county fire department provided this statement:

With the new system, the Santa Barbara County Fire Department plans to seamlessly provide services to an already existing EMS program. American Medical Response has been providing EMS transport services to our communities for several decades. The County Fire Department looks forward to partnering with AMR to provide exceptional service to our communities. The Santa Barbara County Fire Department is a model public safety agency, widely recognized for our effectiveness, regional strength, and community attentiveness. With almost five decades of providing paramedic/ALS services to the community, we affirm our department’s dedication to continuing our tradition of excellence in emergency medical services.

KSBY reached out to American Medical Response (AMR) for comment, and this was their response:

The Fire District for the County lost three times in an RFP process run by the County. Our proposal was judged 317 points better than the Fire District’s by an independent and expert review panel. Our proposal was the best in every category for the community and patients. Since the Fire District lost, it started a smear campaign and had to circumvent the RFP process by going to the Board of Supervisors of the County which we understand is the same Board of Supervisors for the Fire District. The Fire District is driven not by patient interests but by its own pension motives. We are evaluating legal options including, potential violations of the State EMS Act, State procurement laws, and conflicts of interest.

The new system will take effect in March of 2024.