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Most Hamburg residents won't notice the difference, but a new era in emergency medical care starts Saturday.

That's when the town's contract with Rural/Metro Medical Services goes into effect, with the commercial ambulance service formally backing up the nine volunteer fire companies on emergency medical calls.

With the new contract comes a subscription service, called Spirit. It allows residents to pay $25 for a single membership or $35 for a family membership for one year. The flat fee entitles the recipient to receive ambulance service from Rural/Metro anywhere in Erie County.

If a resident does not have the subscription service, the cost of an ambulance call will be $218.50 for basic services and $350 for advanced life support, plus mileage and medical treatment administered during the transport. The town is starting an information campaign to inform residents of the subscription option.

"We've received a lot of telephone calls," said Councilwoman Joan A. Kesner. "I'm telling people to look at their insurance. If they need (the subscription) they should call Rural/Metro or their volunteer fire company."

She said the town has received complaints from residents in the past regarding bills for commercial ambulance service. Those bills could range from $350 to $700, depending on the medical treatment provided and the number of miles the patient was transported.

"There may be a few who don't call for an ambulance because they don't have insurance. This (subscription service) may make the difference," Kesner said.

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