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By Eric Heinz

Cutting costs on ambulance services has led the city of San Clemente’s leaders to look for the most frugal service provider.

Council members were unified in adding a full-time ambulance to its fleet, but the next ambulance service provider may not be Orange County Fire Authority, which Councilman Chris Hamm said has been contracted with the city since the 1950s. Hamm is a firefighter with OCFA.

According to city documents, somewhere between $136,000 and $290,000 could be saved by going to a cheaper provider, as costs for the public health service has risen in previous years and could again rise in the next year.

In fall 2015, the city entered into an agreement with CARE Ambulance Services for a pilot program to see if the city needed an additional full-time ambulance instead of just a part-time seasonal ambulance to handle to summer volume of calls. The program was also implemented in case the only hospital in the city closed, which it did in March.

Assistant City Manager Erik Sund said the CARE ambulance responded to 1,050 calls between Nov. 1, 2015 and Oct. 31, 2016. The OCFA ambulance responded to more than 2,500 calls, but the difference between those numbers is likely due to OCFA ambulances needed in neighboring cities and other issues.

City Attorney Scott Smith said the city can retain its rights to select its own ambulance service even with this decision. The bidding process and the requirements the city will put together are expected to be available in February, Sund said.

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