EMS inundated with non-emergency calls, asks public to stay home

Coronavirus

The City and County of Honolulu’s Emergency Medical Services said they’ve been responding to hundreds of Covid-19 related calls, most of which they said are non-emergencies.

Since Thursday, EMS paramedics said they’ve received more than 250 ‘suspected’ COVID-19 cases.

“We’re seeing on average about 70 a day which is about three an hour for us,” explained Korey Chock, EMS Assistant Chief of Operations. “We only have 21 ambulances that cover the entire island, 19 are overnight so as you can imagine we don’t have a lot of resources, hence why we want to put out the message to use 9-1-1 and EMS for life-threatening emergencies only.”

He said life-threatening emergencies would include heart attack, chest pain, stroke, difficulty breathing, severe trauma, severe bleeding, or if you see someone drowning, just to name a few.  

“If they are experiencing flu-like symptoms without any life-threatening injuries, we would like them to call 2-1-1 for information, they can contact their general health care provider, the Queen’s Medical System has set up a hotline they can call,” Chock said.

“Examples of calls we’ve received… this morning we got a call and she was too scared to leave her apartment and she wanted the paramedics to go and pick up her medication for her,” Chock said.

He said EMS has responded to calls for people who wanted to have their temperature checked and asked how to work thermometers. “Those are not emergencies,” he said.

First responders are also asking people to stay home so they can stay safe too.

“We understand everybody’s worried for their families and loved ones and so are we,” said Laura Kumamoto, EMS paramedic unit supervisor.  “Everyone should just remain calm and try and follow the guidelines and policies that we have in place. If everybody stays home for us then we can still be there for them.”

The Queen’s Medical Center line to answer medical-related questions related to COVID-19 is 808-691-2619, and is available 24/7.

You can also call or text 2-1-1.

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