After Cities Complain, Ambulance Contracts Might Be Extended

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Local city officials moved a step closer Tuesday to getting the extra time they’ve been seeking to evaluate a controversial ambulance contracting process they claim is full of holes.

Following a litany of letters from concerned city leaders, Orange County supervisors agreed Tuesday during their weekly public meeting to seek state approval for a one-year extension of the current ambulance contracts, which expire Sept. 1.

The cities’ concerns “absolutely justify” requesting a one-year extension, said Supervisor Todd Spitzer.

Cities such as Irvine, Mission Viejo and Aliso Viejo recently warned that the proposed process fails to adequate explain how the evaluation panels will be selected and what the response time requirements will be, as well as eliminsating certain experience requirements for vendors, among other concerns.

At the same time, supervisors moved forward with seeking state approval of their request for proposals document or RFP, which is expected to be released to bidders on April 25.

Supervisors voted 4-1 to request a one-year extension and change the draft RFP to make ambulance contracts last five years with no extensions, as opposed to the staff-recommended three years with two one-year extensions.

They also voted unanimously to send the draft RFP to the state, with supervisors Pat Bates and Janet Nguyen opposing requirements that ambulance firms pay fees to cover new county software and staff to monitor.

Supervisor John Moorlach also opposed requiring ambulance providers to collect fees for Orange County Fire Authority paramedic service.

It remains to be seen whether the state Emergency Medical Services Authority will allow the contracts to be extended and if so, for how long.

“My guess is they’re putting pressure on us to come up with some solution to the issue but would not deny us if we” have a good basis for the extension, said Supervisor Pat Bates.

State EMSA officials hadn’t yet received the county’s extension request as of late Tuesday afternoon, according to a spokesman for the agency.

Since the RFP was released last month, more than 1,000 changes have been made to it, Spitzer said.

On the issue of the review panels’ composition, Spitzer said that language has been updated so that each panel will include representatives of cities, the county, a hospital, physician, first responders and 911 emergency responders.

It’s unclear whether cities will be satisfied by the new specifications.

Please contact Nick Gerda directly at ngerda@gmail.com  and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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