‘I wouldn’t say we’re maxed out, but we’re getting close’: EMS stretched thin amid coronavirus surge

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) –Honolulu Emergency Medical Services says they’re extremely busy across the board, but especially paramedics. The calls for emergency medical help continues to grow and the numbers show.

In July 2019, over 7,900 911 medical emergency calls came in. During 2020, over 6,600 and last month over 8,100 emergency calls rang in. Now, EMS recently saw another new record.

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“From the City stand point, I wouldn’t say we’re maxed out, but we’re getting close,” said Dr. Jim Ireland, Honolulu Emergency Services Department director. “We had a record number of calls the other day at 390 911 calls for medical services in a 24 hour period.”

Dr. Ireland says there’s a common denominator in the calls coming in.

“I haven’t heard one 911 call for COVID-19 related illness for a vaccinated person,” he said. “Now there may have been a few. The paramedics tell me they ask the person ‘Are you vaccinated?’ and the dispatchers ask them that because we want to know before we get to the house. Almost universally, the answer is ‘No, I’m not vaccinated.’ So it’s sad because this is a preventable disease.”

Amid Hawaii’s COVID-19 surge, paramedics are also changing the way they transport patients in what they’re calling round robin.

So what does that mean for patients who need emergency care? Individuals may not end up at the hospital of their choice.

“On the west side, one will go to Wahiawa, one will go to Queens West, one will go to Pali Momi. So it’s almost like a governance on where the patients are going so one hospital doesn’t get ten patients in two hours which can happen when the call volume is high.”

EMS says it’s stretched thin, and there are no reinforcements coming in at this time. They’re pleading with the community to do its part.

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“I just can’t really emphasize that the time to vaccinate is now,” said Ireland. “You know everyone in health care is working very very hard, and I don’t hesitate to say this, EMS is working harder than anybody, and they’re answering the calls for 911. They’re responding to anyone who can’t breathe, and people who need to be put on ventilators.”

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