Some Big Island EMS units downgraded in December

Local News

Not enough paramedics. Officials say it’s a statewide problem. But for Hawaii County, is it affecting emergency medical response?

On the Big Island, the fire department also runs EMS. We learned last month some of the EMS units were downgraded to basic life support which means there were EMTs but no paramedics for those units. The county is also cutting back on double overtime pay.

“In these cases, we had previously scheduled relief and either their relief called in sick or there were other units that had sick leave. That created a shortage of the mobile intensive care or paramedic position,” said Fire Chief Darren Rosario.

Chief Rosario tells us a unit with EMTs would respond to a 911 call, but at the same time, another nearby fire station that could provide advanced life support would co-respond.

“It happened a few times over the month of December and it was pretty much stabilized since,” he said.

Chief Rosario says the shortages were in condensed areas such as Kailua-Kona, so the next unit with a paramedic or what they call a mobile intensive care technician could respond fairly quickly.

“And once again, the primary response was never delayed. The primary response of either the fire truck with EMTs onboard or an ambulance with EMTs on board responded. So there’s no delay in the response and the initial assessment whatsoever.”

Chief Rosario says there’s active recruitment taking place and hopes that will ease the critical need later in the year.

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