HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Seven men and two women received their certificates to pins to become the city's newest paramedics. But they are still not enough to relieve the shortage that the city has had for years.
The nine completed 1,600 hours of instruction over the past year in Kapiolani Community College's Mobile Intensive Care Technician class, learning how to make the hard decisions that could mean life or death.
"Paramedic is the person who's ultimately in charge of the scene, the ambulance, the patient care, the partners, and the safety of themselves as well, so it's a huge responsibility, but I'm absolutely honored to be part of the ones who get to do that," said one of the graduates, Manahel Al-Hozial.
"We need help," said city Emergency Services Department chief Dean Nakano. "We're at a critical stage where we're overwhelmed with the 911 calls."
Nakano said the nine new paramedics brings the city's total of 135. But there are still 16 vacancies to fill.
"This is a class of nine, so we'll probably come out a little ahead. But I think people have to realize that paramedics like me have 30 years of experience. They're all eligible to retire," he said.
The grads already have experience as emergency medical technicians, or EMT's, who assist the paramedics. According to a recent documentary by investigative reporter Matt Levi, they could be responding to calls an average of 15 times in a 12-hour day.
"The call volume is pretty hard, but we work out there, we hit the calls as much as we can, try to turn over as fast as we can, because the calls keep on rolling in, rolling in," said another new paramedic, Zakariah Lani-Young.
The department also said it needs more ambulance units as well as new ambulances. The last one came five years ago. The department plans to ask the legislature to help pay for them.
Besides, Al-Hozial and Lani-Young, the other new paramedics are Kenneth Arai, Eric Watanabe, Trevor Halverson, Zachary Suniga, Kevin Twomey, Joanna Mae Tumbaga and Christian Velasco.
Another eleven men and women will start the new paramedic class in January.