Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve a new job classification for ambulance operators. 

Since the County Fire Department plans to apply for a permit to provide ambulance services starting next year, the county needs to establish job classifications for ambulance operator employees.

The county contracts with American Medical Response for ambulance services now, and for the past 50 years, so it hasn’t directly employed ambulance operator paramedics and EMTs.

Supervisors approved positions for ambulance operator-paramedics and ambulance operator-EMTs (emergency medical technicians).

Paramedics are trained in basic and advanced life support, and EMTs are trained in basic life support.

Employees in both positions would be represented by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 620. They would not be safety employees, even if they’re part of the County Fire Department.

This vote comes after the Board of Supervisors approved a new ambulance provider permit system. The board originally solicited proposals for an exclusive provider countywide, and a review panel scored AMR’s proposal higher than County Fire’s for the contract.

After that, supervisors decided to implement a non-exclusive contract system with permits for different types of ambulance services: responding to 9-1-1 emergency medical calls and transporting to hospitals; interfacility transfers and staffing for special events like festivals; and critical-care transfers.

AMR has been providing ambulance services for the county for about 50 years. County Fire has ambulance crews for Vandenberg Village, the Cuyama Valley and UC Santa Barbara, areas which AMR doesn’t cover. 

The county plans to have new contracts in effect by March 2024 when the current contract with AMR expires.

Permit applications for ambulance services contracts will be open for 21 days starting July 20th. County staff have previously said the review process is expected to take until September.