EMS worries potential budget cuts will slash their crucial operations

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Updated: Aug. 24, 2020 at 6:55 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii’s Emergency Medical Services officials are bracing for possible budget cuts of up to 20 percent — at a time when demand for their services is soaring due to the pandemic.

“It’s terrible. It’s not good for morale,” said City Councilmember Joey Manahan.

Manahan said any cuts to Honolulu’s EMS would have to be made up by taking money from other first responders like police.

“We’re not going to have CARES Act money next year so we would have to be looking into city coffers to make up any cuts,” he said.

The state Heath Department, which funds all four county EMS operations, said no decision has been made yet to cut funding.

It said a memo issued last week by Gov. David Ige is simply asking all departments to identify programs and positions that could be eliminated due to the pandemic and delays in reopening the tourism economy.

As part of that, the Health Department asked county EMS officials to identify 10 to 20 percent cost reductions, stirring up the concerns.

“These are models for discussion purposes, and no action is being taken at this time,” a department spokeswoman said.

But for some EMS workers, who have battled the virus on the front lines, any talks of cuts are an insult. One EMT wrote in an email to Hawaii News Now:

“California wouldn’t think of cutting fire services during a wildfire, why would (Gov. Ige) even consider taking away EMS units,” he wrote.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green agreed.

“It’s really too stupid to talk about. It’s just bad. You can’t cut EMS workers right now. I can’t see how it can work,” he said.

No word on when the final decision on potential cuts will be made.

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