EMS swamped with COVID-19 related calls


Honolulu Emergency Medical Services says in the last few days they’ve been averaging 70 to 90 COVID-19 related calls each day. This on a system with an already high call volume. EMS says these additional calls are from people who suspect they may have the virus. A spokeswoman says a majority of them did not need an EMS response.

“We know people are scared. We are all worried,” said EMS spokeswoman Shayne Enright. “Unless you are experiencing a medical emergency, you really should call your doctor, go to the drive-thru clinics.”

During peak house, EMS only has 21 ambulances for the entire island. And each time they respond to a medical call, they’re suit-up with personal protective equipment. Officials say there is not going to be enough resources if people continue to call for symptoms that are not life-threatening.

“Your neighbor next door may have a heart attack or could go into cardiac arrest at the same time you’re calling for a fever. We just need to make sure we are going to be available for those who really do need us in a timely manner,” said Enright.

Police union president Malcolm Lutu tells us officers sometimes assist Fire and EMS in medical calls. For their safety, police will be standing by.

“We’re the least protected on the road right now and if it’s not life-threatening, we rather our officers let EMS and Fire address the situation first,” said Lutu.

Lutu tells us recently dispatch has been giving officers more information.

“We had a few cases I believe it became negative but where the officers did a co-response with EMS and Fire, officers got there first,” he said, “came out where I guess they were shocked when EMs and Fire were all suited up with protective gear. We solved that for now since then once it got to the department and union.”

Lutu says protective suits may not work in their line of duty but they’re working with what they’ve got: gloves, goggles, and more masks are coming in.

The Hawaii Fire Fighters Association tells us the Fire Department has been getting more overflow calls from EMS. HFD receives on average 50 to 60 possible COVID-19 calls per 24-hour period.

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