EMS staffing shortages prompt calls for action

EMS staffing shortages prompt calls for action
Councilwoman Kymberly Pine
Councilwoman Kymberly Pine
Mark Rigg
Mark Rigg

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The accident at Ala Moana Center on Saturday is prompting calls for the city to fix the chronic staffing shortages at the Emergency Medical Services department.

"I worry that there's going to be more cases like that," said Councilwoman Kymberly Pine.

"Clearly the shortages of city workers and forcing them to work long hours shows that we definitely need more ambulances in the system."

There are about 46 vacancies in EMS, or about 20 percent of its workforce. That's an improvement from 35 percent back in April.

And the city said  its plans to add 19 new paramedics by next week, further easing the shortage.

But Pine says that's not enough. She's urging the city to allow more private ambulances to operate in the city to avoid the temporary closures like the ones this past weekend at EMS's Nanakuli, Kaneohe and its Queens Medical Center units.

"We were having to have people to work extra shifts to keep the units open. It just got to the point where we just had to send people home," said Mark Rigg, EMS director.

Rigg said the city does have private ambulances on standby and can rely on nearby ambulance units when there's a temporary closure.

"There hasn't been any evidence at all of a public safety issue at this point," he said.

Rigg declined comment on Saturday's crash at Ala Moana Center, in which the crew was on its second eight-hour shift and the patient eventually died of an apparent heart attack.

He said the city is working on a new union contract that would allow crews to work 12-hour shifts instead of eight, which could mean fewer double shifts.

But a deal with the union hasn't been finalized yet.

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