Costa Mesa City Council members couldn’t help but applaud and let out a few cheers Tuesday night as they approved a contract with Care Ambulance Service to provide staffing for some city ambulances, clearing the way for the city to transport patients using a new service model that’s been in the works for more than a year.
The council’s 4-0 vote for the five-year contract — with Councilman Jim Righeimer absent — means patients will be taken to hospitals in city ambulances perhaps as soon as next month.
Currently, patients are transported in private ambulances operated by Care, a city contractor since 2008. A city fire crew responds to emergency calls along with ambulances from both the city and the company.
When patients are in serious condition, city paramedics travel to the hospital in a Care ambulance, with a city ambulance following so the paramedics have a ride back.
Critics have long derided that setup as costly and inefficient, particularly since Costa Mesa bought new ambulances a few years ago but has not used them for patient transport.
Under the new model, the Costa Mesa Fire & Rescue Department will provide ambulance transportation services and contract with private firms to provide some staffing and handle billing.
The newly approved contract with Care has a maximum cost of $1.85 million annually.
The system will be “the most historic EMS delivery change that we’ve had in the history of the department,” Fire Chief Dan Stefano told the council Tuesday.
Fire officials also have said the new model is expected to bring additional revenue from fees paid by patients and insurance companies, boosting the city’s annual recovery of ambulance costs from $709,907 to just under $2 million.
“It’s a really good program that you’re putting forward here and I appreciate all the long hours that have been put into it,” Councilwoman Katrina Foley told fire officials at the meeting.
“This is very exciting,” added Mayor Sandy Genis.