Oahu’s ambulance coverage stretched thin with backup vehicles out of commission

Local News

They’re a key component in saving lives, but we’ve learned the city’s ambulance fleet is now stretched thin.

That’s because every backup ambulance is out for maintenance and repair, or waiting to be serviced. Many are currently sitting in a city facility maintenance lot in Halawa.

This means for the 20 daily operating ambulances, there currently isn’t a backup vehicle.

The situation led to Wailupe emergency responders operating out of an SUV and partnering with a private ambulance operated by American Medical Response on every emergency call Tuesday.

Officials with Honolulu’s Emergency Medical Services tell us it’s the first time they’ve been in this situation.

With EMS getting an average of 220 911 calls a day, is the department still capable of responding to emergencies?

A spokesperson says yes.

“It should never get though to this point where we don’t have enough ambulances or we’re short on equipment, or they’re looking for help and seeking help,” said Sen. Will Espero, D, a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health.

Espero says the Emergency Services Department is partially funded by the state. This year, EMS has a $35 million operating budget.

Espero says he wasn’t aware of the issue behind the scenes.

“It could be a budget issue or it could be we just don’t have good ambulances, or the maintenance of ambulances is inadequate. That’s something we have to look at,” Espero said.

We asked EMS officials if the reason why all 24 of the backup ambulances were being repaired at the same time was the result of a budget issue or a maintenance issue.

While we did not get a direct response, we did receive a statement from Chris Sloman, EMS operations chief, that said: “While we are back to normal at this time (with daily operating ambulances), we are looking for ways to help prevent this from occurring again.”

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