Santa Cruz County fire chiefs’ panel studying feasibility of new ambulance service role

SANTA CRUZ >> For the first time in 15 years, Santa Cruz County will throw open the doors to emergency ambulance service providers to provide local service, and area fire agencies are closely tracking the process.

An existing EMS service contract with Colorado-based American Medical Response is scheduled to expire in September 2018.

For a year or more, Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency has been collaborating with emergency service stakeholders to create a request for proposals — a contract bid — and rethinking how services are provided locally in the process.

Santa Cruz Fire Chief Jim Frawley said leaders of the 14 fire service agencies across the county, a group known as the Santa Cruz County Fire Chiefs Association, is weighing taking a leadership role in delivering EMS services. To that end, they have jointly hired a consultant to study the financial feasibility and deployment model of such a move.

“All along, fire chiefs have been talking about, to what extent are we going to participate or how can we participate in this, because we as fire agencies on a day-to-day basis do participate in the delivery of pre-hospital emergency medical services,” Frawley said of the group’s interest in the county contract.

Frawley spoke briefly about the effort during a fire department budget presentation before the Santa Cruz City Council on Wednesday, and later to the Sentinel. He said he has taken on a leadership position among the chiefs in investigating the operational model options.

The county’s last ambulance service overhaul and bidding process was opened in 2002, coinciding with when the area’s major fire departments first began staffing highly-trained paramedic firefighters. The contract, initially stretching from 2003 to 2008, has been updated and extended several times.

American Medical Response has been contracted as the county’s sole emergency ambulance service provider since…

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