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Ventura Seeks to Revive Paramedic Unit

TIMES STAFF WRITER

When the state Supreme Court ruled that counties have the right to decide the level of emergency medical service for residents, the Board of Supervisors returned ambulance services in Ventura to a private company--killing Ventura’s popular Paramedic Transport Program.

But Monday night, the Ventura City Council took a step to fight back.

The council voted 5 to 0 to support a push for legislation that would allow cities to decide for themselves the kind of emergency services they would provide within their municipalities.

The council also directed the mayor to strongly advocate that position at the upcoming League of California Cities meeting Oct. 12-14. The league also supports such legislation.

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Mayor Jack Tingstrom and Councilman Gary Tuttle were absent during the vote.

Before the vote, Councilman Steve Bennett asked city officials if the city would be able to break the county’s nine-year contract with American Medical Response--the private ambulance service that took over--if the legislation should pass.

City Manager Donna Landeros said city and county attorneys disagreed on that point.

“We are continuing to have discussions with the county and AMR about some sort of partnership--one that would allow us to terminate our contract if the legislation is successful,” Landeros said.

Resident Ruth Kinne told the council she alerted Assemblyman Brooks Firestone (R-Los Olivos) to the problem, and his office sent her a letter saying that the existing paramedic law “can be amended through legislation.”

The city of Santa Clara introduced the resolution proposing the legislation.

A year ago, Ventura was the first city in the county to create a paramedic unit run by a city fire department.

Ventura said it was able to cut emergency response times by two minutes, and cut ambulance bills by 40%, compared with those of American Medical Response, which now operates ambulance services in the county.

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At the time of the decision to return services to American Medical, Ventura officials beseeched county supervisors to open the ambulance contract to an open bidding process.

But three supervisors would not support the request, fearing that the county would be sued by the private company.


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