Santa Barbara County Fire Department secures EMS contract

November 1, 2023
EMS Fire engine ambulance

Santa Barbara’s EMS landscape changes

The Santa Barbara County Fire Department has secured the county’s emergency medical services (EMS) contract, with services set to commence in March 2024.

The decision comes after a coordinated effort by Santa Barbara County Local 2046, labor groups, and fire department management. For more details on the contract.

Former provider faces competition

For many years, American Medical Response (AMR) held the position as the primary emergency medical response provider for Santa Barbara County.

A major challenge faced was persuading the Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors to explore alternatives.

Local 2046 President Hugh Montgomery stated: “From the start, we wanted to improve the system to deliver better service in a more timely manner to the communities across Santa Barbara County.”

The bidding process unfolds

The opportunity to bid for the EMS contract arose after persistence by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department and its supporters.

Former Local 2046 President Bryan Fernandez played a crucial role in initiating the bid.

He noted: “What helped tremendously was that we were able to bring all of the fire departments and fire department management together on this issue.

“It wasn’t a fast process, but the Board of Supervisors agreed to open the contract up for bid in 2022.”

The Santa Barbara County Fire Department and AMR were the only contenders.

After careful evaluation, though AMR initially appeared favored, the Board of Supervisors adjusted their decision based on several criteria not met by AMR.

Decision factors and future expectations

Upon review, supervisors modified the existing contract structure, introducing a more comprehensive model that catered to varying emergency medical needs.

Ultimately, all three major permits, including emergency medical calls, interfacility transport, and critical care transport, were granted to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

The decision was grounded in the potential of a seamlessly integrated 911 response system, optimized use of already strategically placed fire stations, faster response rates, and enhanced paramedicine response.

Fernandez expressed gratitude, saying: “We appreciate the support we have gotten from other departments and management.

“Now, we are looking forward to putting our plan into action, especially new services like paramedicine response.”

FSJA Comment

The transition of the EMS contract to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department is a pivotal move in the emergency medical service landscape of Santa Barbara County.

This change not only signifies a shift in the service provider landscape but also embodies the evolution of emergency response services in the region.

With emphasis on an integrated 911 response system, better positioning of response units, and the introduction of advanced services, the community of Santa Barbara can anticipate a more efficient and streamlined emergency service experience.

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