HONOLULU (KHON2) — According to Honolulu Emergency Medical Services, there were numerous ambulance closures with the most at nine on Sunday, Dec. 11. Paramedics that KHON2 spoke with said they’re concerned about the ongoing closures.
“It’s hard to come in and do overtime and see that there’s no support,” said a Honolulu EMS paramedic. “You look on the board and there’s no one available. You’re the only unit available on the whole island. That’s kind of a little bit of a scary feeling sometimes.”
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EMS said the closures were due to staffing shortages, employees out on vacation, calling out sick or out with injuries. The ambulance closures challenges continue to be exhausted by record high call volumes.
“We just had one ambulance in these past few days that ran 22 calls in 12 hours,” said Dr. Jim Ireland, Honolulu Emergency Medical Services Director. “There’s some days in the peak call times in the afternoon when there’s 30 911 calls on the call board and with only 21 or 22 ambulances you can’t go to 30 calls.”
EMS officials are looking for other solutions like incentives for employees and bringing back a part of its operations that was put on pause. That includes bringing back Rapid Response SUVs and asking supervisors to work in the field.
Meanwhile, merging Honolulu EMS and the Honolulu Fire Department has been proposed in the past. The Hawaii Fire Fighters Association said it is an idea that needs to be taken seriously.
“If everybody’s under one umbrella then you can come up with better ideas and just more seamless operations,” said Bobby Lee, Hawaii Fire Fighters Association President.
This comes as the state transitions control and oversight of EMS funding from the Hawaii Department of Health to the City.
“There are some benefits where it’s mainly autonomy and billing, and charging will be able to be streamlined with the City and County of Honolulu and Emergency Medical Services,” said Radiant Cordero, Honolulu City Councilmember.
As EMS tries to find long-term solutions for closures and staffing shortages, the American Medical Response and the Federal Fire Department continue to provide backup services. EMS wants to add a third CORE ambulance and is working with private providers to get three backup ambulances.
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“For this weekend, our average response time was under 10 minutes across the island and that’s our goal. So our average response time wasn’t significantly impacted. I want to be there for people when they call 911 for emergencies. I want them to get a highly trained paramedic, and I just want to make the changes to make that possible,” said Dr. Ireland.