HONOLULU (KHON2) — The City says the COVID surge is affecting operations for Ocean Safety, Health Services, and EMS with about 50 people currently out.
For Ocean Safety, the staffing shortage means keeping a tower closed for the past few weeks.
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“We’re being hit by these sheer numbers and we do adjust,” said John Titchen, Chief of Honolulu Ocean Safety. “We want to reassure the public that we’re on duty and we do find ways to ensure that areas are covered, even if a tower is closed. We encourage the public to call 911.”
On Hawaii Island, it’s the fire department seeing the biggest impacts.
“We had about 14 folks test positive last week for COVID,,” said Cyrus Johnasen, Hawaii County Spokesperson. “Up until today actually about another 30, who are close contacts that needed a negative test result to come back to work.”
Concerns over staffing shortages may prompt change.
“EMS for us is a huge medical resource as well,” Johansen said. “So if staffing plays a role there, then we might have to look at some of our other rules and see how we can assist and support our emergency medical services.”
Some departments are looking for relief with new recruits. The City says 18 EMT academy graduates and nine paramedic school graduates will join field operations this month. Ocean Safety is also hoping to fill 25 positions at its tryouts this week.
“We’re planning for one of the largest recruit classes that we’ve had in quite some time, probably a couple of decades,” Chief Titchen said. “We’re very hopeful that people coming in to our recruit class will be on the beach saving lives in no time at all. We are very hopeful that this is a barometer, if you will, of what we’re looking at staffing wise through the next few years.”
For the time being, the City says some workers are working longer to fill shifts and for EMS, it’s turned to AMR and federal fire ambulances to help answer some calls.