KAUNAKAKAI, Molokai (KHON2) — On Molokai, if you need an ambulance, sometimes you have to wait. It’s a harsh reality for people on the Friendly Isle because there’s just one ambulance for the entire island. There’s now a push to add a second.
Molokai is known for its rural landscape. There’s not a single stop light on the island, and residents like it that way.
However, the downside is it also lacks adequate medical services, with just one ambulance to service its more than 7,000 residents.
Sen. Lynn DeCoite hopes to change that. She’s pushing a bill that would provide $1.5 million for a second ambulance and crew.
“It’s a priority of the people Molokai as well as for myself to make sure — as we have that aging population — that we can have those services readily available for the people Molokai,” DeCoite said.
The ambulance is currently stationed in Kaunakakai, which is in the middle of the island. Molokai is 38 miles long with just one road. If calls come in on the east and west side simultaneously, someone has to wait.
“We have calls that can take us six hours in response,” explained Noa Miyamoto, a Medicaid ambulance team leader on Molokai. “If we’ve got to go up to the top of the forest or we’ve got to go down to Halawa Valley or to Hale O Lono, we’re gone for hours on one case. There’s literally no backups.”
Maui Assistant Fire Chief Henry Lindo said 70% of the calls on Molokai are medical calls. He said medical emergencies come in simultaneously at least twice a month. With the population continuing to age, he said it’s happening more often, which is why they see the need for another ambulance unit.
“I would absolutely hate to see the day when two calls are happening at the exact same time that need advanced medical care, but we’re not able to provide it,” Lindo said.
Molokai resident Nan Walters understands first-hand just how serious the situation is.
“I had a brain bleed about 10 years ago,” Waters said. “If it had taken them any longer than what it took them to get me to the hospital and stabilize and in the medivac, I wouldn’t be here talking to you right now. And with only one (ambulance), you know that that’s going to happen, sometimes sooner rather than later.”
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SB3248 passed three readings with amendments and has been referred to the Finance Committee.