HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new ambulance is helping to relieve some of the strain on Oahu’s Emergency Medical Services system.
Despite the added relief, the agency’s chief said more resources are still needed to cope with the rising number of 911 calls.
The new Salt Lake ambulance started operating out of the Airport Industrial Park on Dec. 30. The ambulance has responded to 163 calls, including a few cardiac arrest saves.
It’s the city’s first new ambulance in six years.
“Prior to the Salt Lake unit opening, our town units were running a call an hour or more, which is way above the national average,” said EMS Chief Dean Nakano.
There are now 19 full-time and two part-time ambulances to serve all of Oahu’s residents and visitors. Nakano said crews respond to about 90,000 calls annually, and that the number of calls is rising by about 5,000 each year.
“I thank God every day for them cause they’re great people. They’re tired. They don’t get to eat. Sometimes they don’t even go to the bathroom and they’re still responding to calls,” said Nakano.
“It’s really our people who keep the system going and I don’t want to see them get overworked, burnt out,” he added.
The new ambulance covers the Honolulu metropolitan area as well as Salt Lake, Moanalua and Foster Village.
“You still hear the outer units coming into town. It hasn’t completely solved the problem,” said Nakano.
County ambulances are paid for by the state. During the last session, lawmakers set aside $1.5 million to provide staffing and equipment for the rig for one year.
“We’re going to have to look at the funding and how we sustain all of our ambulance services,” said state Rep. Della Au Belatti (D-Makiki, Tantalus, McCully). “We know that there’s incredible need. We know that our EMS guys are working at all hours.”
Nakano said the agency could still use four more ambulances.
In the meantime, however, they’re proposing to transition to basic life support ambulances for certain calls that don’t require advanced care from a paramedic. Those rigs would be cheaper to run since they would only be staffed with emergency medical technicians.
The agency still needs to get the state Department of Health’s approval.