HONOLULU (KHON2) — Emergency calls are expected to increase this holiday season putting even more pressure on Honolulu Emergency Medical Services, according to Dr. James Ireland, Director of Honolulu Emergency Medical Services. He said they plan to open a new ambulance station despite ongoing staffing issues and station closures.

EMS is bracing for a hectic holiday season.

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“Between now and the first few days in January, we’re going to see a bit more 911 calls,” Ireland explained.

That’s adding to what he said is an already record breaking number of calls.

According to EMS, they get an average of 284 calls per day, which is expected to jump another 15% in the coming weeks.

In order to handle the uptick in calls, Ireland is proposing the use of Rapid Response Units, which would consist of one paramedic in an EMS SUV that can respond to any 911 call where EMS is needed.

He said he also plans to open new ambulance stations to take the pressure off their medical personnel.

“We want to start up another ambulance before the end of the year, at least a half a day [12-hour] ambulance; and in next year’s budget, I’m asking for an additional ambulance “

His goal: to add one new ambulance every year for the next five years.

“We need to reduce the call volume so they have time to breathe,” said Ireland.

But, that’s a tall order considering EMS has struggled with recruitment and retention of EMTs and paramedics since the pandemic.

Those Staffing woes force them to close one evening and one day side ambulance station every day out of the 21 ambulance stations they currently have, according to Ireland.

“We are trying to maintain our ranks; and sometimes, we’re short. At the end of the day, we still need to hire more people,” Ireland explained.

Honolulu EMS currently has 284 medical personnel, down from 303 just six months ago.

But, Ireland said they have prospects coming down the pipeline.

“We do have our third (EMT) academcy currently in place and they will be graduating next month,” he explained. “There’s approximately 13 people there that will be graduating next month.”

He said that’s in addition to those graduating from college with EMS licenses and other potential hires from out of state.

In the mean time, Ireland said they utilize AMR and CORE to help balance the workload whenever necessary.

“So with those five extra units on per day, we feel that that’s mitigating the call volume,” added Ireland

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Ireland said they are considering opening the new station in Central Oahu, possibly Waikele. The last ambulance station EMS opened was in Salt Lake in 2019.