Contra Costa Approves Ambulance Contract

Contra Costa supervisors unanimously approved a first-of-its-kind ambulance contract that is expected to improve response times, but may puts taxpayers at risk if the emergency medical industry’s financial struggles worsen, reports

The five-year deal puts the Contra Costa Fire Protection District in charge of billing and insurance reimbursements, while American Medical Response provides ambulance and paramedics for a set fee.

The new arrangement, which includes a combined dispatch center, is forecast to reduce response times by 30 seconds and lessen the need to dispatch firefighters to nonemergency medical calls.

Additionally, with the county now running its ambulance program, it could qualify for a state program that offers partial reimbursements for the medical transport of certain Medi-Cal recipients.

The contract will cover all of Contra Costa except for San Ramon Valley, Moraga and Orinda, where local fire districts handle emergency transport. The more efficient dispatching of ambulances won’t be felt in Richmond, which doesn’t use ConFire and has its own dispatch center.

Supervisors had been pushing for a more efficient ambulance service, as ConFire and several other fire districts have had to close fire stations and cut back on staffing.

While the new contract is expected to streamline ambulance service, its financial benefits are less certain. Initial forecasts show the arrangement saving taxpayers nearly $2 million the first year. However, reimbursement rates for ambulance providers have been falling. The county is expecting further cutbacks, but still anticipates saving money via the arrangement.

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