Matt Levi investigates EMS: State of Emergency - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Matt Levi investigates EMS: State of Emergency

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

More than 900,000 people live on island of Oahu, along with millions of tourists who pour into the state each year.  Every  one of them expects that if they call 9-11, an ambulance will be there within minutes, with a trained team of paramedics ready to act. 

But Honolulu EMS is operating on a shoestring, and a threadbare one at that. The agency has 20 ambulances to service the entire island – and two of them are only on the clock part time.  There simply aren’t enough ambulances to cover all the calls they get, so often the agency is engaged in a chess game of sending ambulances from outlying areas to cover town, leaving their home bases dangerously bare.

Because of the shortage, the paramedics who are working are forced to answer a much higher call volume.  In a 12-hour shift, it’s not unusual to respond to 15 - 20 calls.  That’s exhausting and burnout is a serious issue.  EMS Chief Dean Nakano says EMS needs another five ambulances just to have adequate coverage.  Year after year, they go to the legislature for more funding, and year after year they have been denied.

In this show we will take viewers for a ride along in the trenches, to show what paramedics face every day.  We’ll speak with the head of the agency, an administrator at the Department of Health, which oversees EMS, along with lawmakers about why the money isn’t there.  And we’ll get the perspective of an emergency room doctor at Queens about the difference paramedics can make for a patient long before they land in the ER - and how this shortage is affecting them as well.

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