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First time in 50 years county ambulance services contract goes to public procurement

AMR is the ambulance service for Santa Barbara County but that could be changing.
John Palminteri / KEYT
AMR is the ambulance service for Santa Barbara County but that could be changing.

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. – Santa Barbara County released its first Request for Proposal (RFP) for the exclusive ambulance services contract – the first time the contract will go to public procurement in its over 50-year history.

The Santa Barbara County Emergency Medical Services Agency announced the release of the RFP on Thursday, and the bid process is expected to conclude with an award in November, with the new contract starting March 1, 2024, according to Santa Barbara County Public Health spokeswoman Jackie Ruiz.

The ambulance contractor provides advanced emergency medical care and transport to all residents and visitors within the county.

AMR currently holds the contract, but the county has been debating putting the contract up to bid for years.

The RFP announced on Thursday emphasizes clinic care, which is in line with national trends focusing on patient-centered metrics, Ruiz said.

"Since faster response times are not generally associated with better patient care, the RFP focuses on the Triple Aim approach – patient experience, population health, and reducing system cost," she said.

Emergency Medical Services Agency Medical Director Dr. Daniel Shephard said that the effectiveness of pre-hospital care is not always based on the speed that teams arrived.

"In the majority of EMS responses, the effectiveness of prehospital care is based on the quality of the care provided rather than the speed with which that care arrived,” he said.

Part of the RFP process included obtaining and incorporating feedback from over 60 emergency medical services stakeholders and partners that was collected in 2018. The county Emergency Medical Services Agency also gathered feedback from the public and local providers in November 2021.

The agency then worked with consultants to develop an "industry first Ambulance RFP" that was designed to allow for both public and private bidders, but still focused on clinical performance, Ruiz said.

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County
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Jade Martinez-Pogue

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