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Commentary: CMFD, not private vendor, should transport patients

When I ran for City Council in 2012, I wrote a commentary in the Daily Pilot stating that, if elected, I would "fast-track" interim Fire Chief Tom Arnold's plan to use city-owned ambulances to transport patients to the hospital.

This was very important because Chief Arnold anticipated that Costa Mesa could recover millions of dollars every year by simply driving patients to the hospital instead of having the current private contractor (CARE Ambulance) do so.

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Having the CMFD transport patients was, in my opinion, an easy decision — a "no-brainer." I lost the election in 2012 by 0.1% (155 votes).

Shortly after the 2012 election, the city purchased state-of-the-art ambulances at a cost to the taxpayers of over $1.6 million.

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In 2012 and 2014, CARE Ambulance was a substantial campaign donor to certain sitting councilmen.

It is now 2016 and CARE Ambulance is still charging Costa Mesa residents to drive them to the hospitals with no transport revenue going to the city. The City Council's delay has cost the city millions in lost revenue in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

That money could have been used to combat our many challenges, including homelessness, increased crime, traffic and the ill-effects of sober living homes. The money could also be used to repair or place our crumbling Fire Department infrastructure (the Royal Palm station is scheduled to be rebuilt in 2017.)

At long last, on Dec. 1, 2015, the City Council received a comprehensive 50-page, outside consultant's feasibility study, which estimates that the city would net $4.1 million each year if the CMFD performs all hospital transport and stops using the private vendor (CARE Ambulance).

No additional employees would need to be hired to implement this option. And the city already purchased the ambulances.

On Jan. 19, the City Council will decide whether to implement full hospital transport by CMFD. The decision is still a "no-brainer." We shall see what the City Council decides.

Former City Council candidate JOHN STEPHENS lives in Costa Mesa.

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