At the first of several hearings on a proposal to change the county’s ambulance service, officials from the Orange County Fire Authority said Tuesday that their plan would help them overcome budget problems and would result in lower fees for users.
Under the plan presented Tuesday, the Fire Authority would take over the service now offered by private ambulance companies.
“We are making this recommendation because it is positive in every way,” Chief Ron Blaul said.
But members of the Orange County Ambulance Assn., which represents the eight private ambulance operators in the county, said research conducted by the Fire Authority exaggerates the potential benefits to the public.
“We believe this plan is fatally flawed,” said Don Moe, executive vice president of the ambulance group. “It is flawed in concept, and it is flawed in the technical details.”
Blaul said the Fire Authority responds to thousands of emergency medical calls every year but receives little reimbursement for its work.
When private ambulances are dispatched to transport victims to hospitals, county paramedics often ride along to administer treatment. The patient is then charged about $300 for the service.
Blaul said the Fire Authority plan would contribute $5.6 million annually to the agency’s coffers because it would collect the $300 fee that customers now pay when they call for emergency ambulance assistance.
That money would help to improve the services that the agency provides, he said.
The next hearing on the issue is set for March 12. At that time, representatives of the ambulance companies will present the plan they would like to see implemented. The meeting will be at Fire Station No. 6, 3180 Barranca Parkway, Irvine.