EMS director disputes math behind merger report

Emergency Services Director Dr. Jim Ireland
Emergency Services Director Dr. Jim Ireland
City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi
City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Last August, Mayor Peter Carlisle released a consultant's report that examined what the city would save by combining the Honolulu Fire Department with Emergency Services. Emergency Services Consulting International estimated a savings in excess of $10 million over five years.

But Emergency Services Director Dr. Jim Ireland said the numbers don't add up.

"When we looked at this report. it has some calculation errors as well as some omissions," he said.

By his calculations, Ireland estimates a merger would cost the city roughly $10 million.

The study lists the price of cross-training 30 paramedics to be firefighters at roughly $120,000. But Ireland said the calculations fail to factor in eight-hour shifts that would spike the cost to more than $975,000. He said if you multiply that by all 180 EMS personnel, the cross-training cost balloons to nearly $6 million. He said there's even more cost after the training is completed.

"The long term costs are more in labor," he said. "When you have somebody with multiple certifications and dual training, in general they make more than if they are singly trained."

Ireland said that could easily add up to more than $2 million in additional costs per year.

City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi said a merger shouldn't be rushed.

"That's why I say we should move cautiously, maybe put some of the services together, share in some of the costs.

Carlisle's administration said one consideration would be to co-locate fire and EMS dispatching, vehicle maintenance and supply operations.

Ireland believes there are some areas where combining operations could save money, but Honolulu should look at other cities that have joint departments.

"There's been success stories and stories where the mergers have not gone well," he said.

The Hawaii Firefighters Association strongly supports a merger.

Carlisle and the City Council are forming a working group to determine how to move forward with information from the merger report.

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