Santa Rosa is moving forward with reforms to the city’s ambulance service.
Santa Rosa Fire Chief Scott Westrope said American Medical Response known as AMR currently delivers ambulance services within the city limits. He said AMR’s quality of service has been in decline though, with an increase of instances of no available ambulances, known as level 0, over the past three years.
"What level zero is means there's no ambulances available in the EMS system, in the core area," Westrope said. "And what we're really looking at, there's an increase in the trend, across the board. And it's attributed to a lot of different things. Call volume staffing."
The major hurdle for Santa Rosa in swapping AMR’s private ambulance service for a publicly-run service is the fact that Sonoma County signed an exclusive contract with AMR over a decade ago. It’s called an EOA, or exclusive operating area. That means Santa Rosa, Kenwood, Rohnert Park and Sebastopol can’t strike out on their own. Despite sharing the service area, Santa Rosa still accounts for the majority of ambulance calls.
"In the middle of EOA 1 is Santa Rosa, which constitutes about 75% or so of the business of the EOA," Westrope told council members. "We're obviously the busiest part of the system. We have the most calls for service."
Even with the desire from city council members and local emergency service officials to see Santa Rosa develop its own public ambulance service, the city likely faces a lengthy legal process to do so. One avenue the city could pursue would be to establish its own EOA, but as Chief Westrope highlighted, it will be a major challenge.
"Essentially the city could consider requesting a creation of a second EOA," Westrope said. "The time and cost of this endeavor is unknown. Both would likely be extremely high. There would be significant court proceedings."
Despite the obstacles, Santa Rosa is moving forward on a five-year plan so the city can make the switch to a public ambulance service when the chance comes.