MARTINEZ -- The Contra Costa County Fire District will study the feasibility of bidding to become the county's ambulance service provider, a role currently fulfilled by a private contractor, American Medical Response.

The agency will select a consultant to prepare the study, ConFire Chief Jeff Carman said Monday. Three bids have been received so far, and a choice could be made by the end of the week, Carman said.

The district's move parallels a recommendation for the fire district's emergency medical services by consultant Fitch and Associates LLC. The recommendation is contained in an EMS report, which will be presented to the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

ConFire covers much of Central County and parts of East County and West County in a 304-square-mile territory, with 23 stations and 23 three-person crews. Two other fire agencies in the county, the Moraga-Orinda and San Ramon Valley fire districts, are ambulance service providers.

Under the current arrangement in ConFire territory, the fire department and AMR respond to the same emergencies within minutes of each other. The fire department arrives first about 70 percent of the time, Carman said.

Critics describe that response model as redundant, but proponents defend it as necessary to assure quick lifesaving interventions. The Fitch EMS study notes that the volume of emergency medical calls is increasing, even as revenue growth slows and will likely decline amid changes in insurance reimbursement rates.


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ConFire's fiscal 2014-15 budget is projected at about $110 million, with a $10.2 million deficit.

Carman noted that there are other changes brewing in the industry, including an interest in "community paramedicine" and other models that could involve treatment at the scene by paramedics, nurse-practitioners or physician's assistants without the necessity of transport to a hospital.

Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760. Follow him at Twitter.com/tomlochner.

IF YOU GO
What: Contra Costa County board of supervisors
Where: County Administration Building, 651 Pine St., Martinez
When: 9 a.m. Tuesday