Despite opposition from officials from nine cities in the southern part of Orange County, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved five-year contracts with two ambulance companies to provide service to five zones.
Officials from the nine southern cities wanted to retain the current provider, Doctor’s Ambulance Service of Laguna Hills. The city officials and Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, who represents the southern part of the county, complained about a Request for Proposal process that had to be repeated.
They argued they were given little opportunity to participate in creating the RFPs, and they voiced concerns about a virtual monopoly since Care Ambulance Service Inc. will provide service to four of the five zones, with Emergency Ambulance Service getting the contract for the Placentia and Yorba Linda zone.
The supervisors voted 4-1 — Bartlett cast the dissenting vote — to accept the staff’s recommendation that Care Ambulance Service get contracts to represent Cypress, La Palma, Los Alamitos, Seal Beach, Stanton, Irvine, Tustin, Villa Park, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Aliso Viejo, Laguna Woods, Dana Point, Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita and San Juan Capistrano.
The supervisors took the action at a special meeting held to consider the issue. They were under pressure from state officials, who mandated and dictated the terms of the RFPs and refused to grant another extension of a June 1 deadline.
Bartlett had pushed for issuing more RFPs for the southern zones to allow her and the city officials to provide more input.
Board Chairman Todd Spitzer, who also serves on the board of the Orange Count Fire Authority, and Supervisor Shawn Nelson said the city officials have had ample time to submit opinions on the selection of the ambulance companies.
A total of 13 public meetings were held in March and April of last year on the ambulance service contracts, and more than 50 comments were also received from cities, ambulance companies and other stakeholders. County staff labeled it as “the most publicly vetted RFP in county history.”
Spitzer said that as a member of the fire authority’s board, he was given “constant updates on what the county was doing.”
Nelson said another round of RFPs would surely improve the contracting process, “but at some point we have to have a result … We have to make sausage out of all of our ingredients at some point.”
There’s no way to please everyone, Nelson argued.
“This is a process that will leave us with unhappy people no matter what the process is,” Nelson said.
He was unsympathetic to claims that officials were left out of the process.
“It’s sort of a hollow grievance to show at the meetings and say we should have more public input,” Nelson said. “I don’t think the public input is going to change things.”
In February of last year, the state’s Emergency Medical Services Authority mandated the county to issue the RFPs for ambulance service to 19 cities and the neighboring unincorporated areas.
Seven companies responded to the first round of RFPs with 16 proposals for the five zones. The county’s Health Care Agency cancelled the RFPs in October, but the county supervisors in December rescinded that order and directed the agency to have new panels of experts analyze the original bids and re-score them.
Spitzer previously said some ambulance companies thought the first RFP process was tainted by a panelist “trying to skew the outcome.”
Care Ambulance and Emergency Ambulance will take over June 1 and continue service through May 31, 2020.
— City News Service