HONOLULU (KHON2) — Honolulu EMS said its aging fleet of ambulances are out of service for months for repairs. And the time has come for them to have their own designated mechanics. They point out that the police and fire departments already have them.

EMS put three of its ambulances out of service as a precaution after an ambulance caught fire while transporting a patient in Kailua. While it has 47 ambulances to cover the 21 units islandwide, on any given day about 10 to 20 ambulances are waiting for repairs at AES, the city’s repair facility. The city said it does put ambulances at the top of the priority list.

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“If an ambulance comes in and needs to be repaired, if that repair is something that’s able to be done immediately, AES immediately puts that ambulance at the top of that list and we’ll repair that vehicle before it goes about repairing any of the other cars in its backlog,” said Ian Scheuring, a city spokesman.

But EMS said it can still take months to get ambulances back on the road. And it’s because AES has its hands full with all other city vehicles needing repairs.

“We are getting the priority, but we are amongst the other vehicles that the city needs to fix. And rubbish trucks are a priority too, not the same way ambulances are, you know, people need the rubbish taken out,” said Dr. James Ireland, director of the Emergency Services Department.

Ireland said having mechanics who specialize in fixing ambulances would cut the repair time considerably.

“We just want to maintain our fleet, maintain the safety, maintain the readiness. And the best way to do that with acceptable cost is what we’re looking at,” he said.

EMS said mechanics are needed not just for repairs but also for constant maintenance because ambulances rack up so many miles each day.

According to EMS on average each ambulance already has 200 thousand miles.

Ireland pointed out that in the past, the budget for EMS was controlled by the state health department so changes had to be approved by the state and funded by state lawmakers. That changed this year.

“Now that we are funded by the city, we collect and keep our own billing. This actually removes the hurdle that we had before,” said Ireland.

He said the plan is to work with city officials and hopefully put it in the budget to be approved by the city council.

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“The faster and less expensive way to do it would be to hire those folks within our department or fund them through AES as dedicated employees to EMS and use their facilities,” said Ireland.