County Fire participates in $18 million plan to build ambulance workforce and vehicle fleet | local news

County Fire participates in $18 million plan to build ambulance workforce and vehicle fleet |  local news

The Santa Barbara County Fire Department is taking over ambulance services in the county in just four months, and wants to hire paramedics, EMTs and registered nurses as soon as possible.

Although its contracts are still being negotiated with the county Public Health Department, fire officials need to hire and train the workforce, outfit the vehicle fleet, finalize deployment forms, and prepare for a March 1 start date.

In September, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to grant permits to the county fire department’s ambulance services for emergency medical response and 9-1-1 transportation; Transportation between facilities and organizing special events; and critical care transport.

The Board of Supervisors denied US Medical Response a permit for 9-1-1 response. They said the application did not detail how the company would serve remote areas of the county while meeting response time requirements.

Supervisors also said the proposal “demonstrates relatively few community benefits” and had no innovative ideas for integrating into the emergency medical system.

AMR has filed a lawsuit over the decision, asking a Superior Court judge to issue an injunction. A hearing is scheduled for December to consider the case.

County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig and other command staff are asking supervisors to approve $18.65 million in start-up costs (funded from fire district reserves) for the contract implementation plan.

The motion will be heard at a meeting Tuesday in Santa Maria. Success requires the approval of four-fifths (four out of five supervisors).

The plan includes building a workforce and examining ambulance prices

The county fire department plans to hire 123 full-time equivalent employees at this time. She suggests bringing in some employees as “extra help” in January for training so they can keep their other jobs through March 1 — a policy likely written with current AMR employees in mind.

Ambulance operators will be non-safety employees and represented by SEIU Local 620 even though they are part of the county fire department.

The to-do list also includes agreements for ambulance stations and comfort stations, which will be located at 23 county and municipal fire stations throughout the county.

County Fire has proposed using current ambulance rates, but will conduct a fee study to analyze whether changes will be required.

Current rates are $3,321.32 for Advanced Life Support; $2,158 for basic life support; Standby rate $334.39; $220.68 for oxygen; And $64.89 for miles.

In its bidding submission last year, County Fire projected $8 million in revenue annually, which would be reinvested into the local emergency medical services system.

The number could be even higher, because fire officials expect to pay for startup costs with a projected $11.6 million in ambulance transportation revenue.

They will also use debt financing for some of the funding for the Regional Fire Communications Center, which frees up millions of dollars for this program, according to the board letter.

AMR lawsuit regarding permit denial

American Medical Response has provided continuous ambulance services in the county since 1980. Its current contract expires in February.

AMR and County Fire submitted proposals and then allowed applications for ambulance service contracts with the county.

When the county denied the AMR permit application, American Medical Response West sued the county, the Board of Supervisors, the county fire protection district, and the Department of Public Health.

The company is asking a judge to essentially reverse the approval of the County Fire permit.

In court documents, AMR’s attorneys argue that the company would suffer financial harm and irreparable damage to its reputation by being forced to leave the province.

Lawyers say AMR may not be able to return and restart services here even if it prevails in court. They estimate it would cost $17 million to stop and then resume service in Santa Barbara County.

The company will try to reassign employees to AMR jobs in other areas, but will likely lose some of its 162-member workforce to County Fire and other jobs, Regional Director Mike Sanders wrote in a statement to the court.

AMR alleges that the county abused its discretion by denying the qualified provider a permit, and that fire officials improperly participated in the code development and decision-making process.

The Board of Supervisors will address the lawsuit in closed session on Tuesday.

The board is also expected to approve a contract with an outside law firm to represent the county and fire department in the case.

County Fire will pay for the legal services agreement with Los Angeles-based Hooper, Lundy & Bookman PC, which is capped at $650,000, through mid-2025.

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