City looks to Junior paramedics to curb shortage

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

KAKAAKO (KHNL) -- It's a shortage Emergency Medical Service leaders say is more severe than in years past. They say there aren't enough paramedics to keep up with the increasing volume of 911 calls.

36 students are proud new Junior Paramedics. Their graduation was held at the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine Friday evening.

The program aims to strengthen the city's health and public safety.

It's designed to breathe life and passion among youth to explore the Emergency Medical Service world.

"This is our fourth summer doing the program and we already have actually one Junior Paramedic working for us as an Emergency Medical Technician," said Program Coordinator Ian Santee.

The Junior Paramedic Program is in response to a shortage that has become worse over the past three years. EMS leaders say services have grown, but staff has not. Plus, about 27 paramedics are set to leave.

"Paramedics were created about 35 years ago so those people who came in 35 years ago are starting to watch that door for retirement," said Honolulu Emergency Medical Services Division Chief Patricia Dukes.

Paramedics say response to 911 calls is not affected, but the shortage is taking a toll on staff.

"What happens is we do have people who work extra and so it takes away from their family life," said Dukes.

With programs like this, the hope is to fill that future void and make sure the next generation of paramedics are well-trained.

The program is for anyone between 14 and 17 years old. As Junior Paramedics, students are certified in first aid and CPR.

The summer program runs for a month, Monday through Friday, six hours per day.