Staffing shortages trigger temporary closures at some Oahu EMS stations

Staffing shortages have been a problem for Honolulu EMS for years.
Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 4:31 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 3, 2022 at 6:40 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Staffing shortages are triggering temporary closures at some Oahu EMS stations.

Officials confirmed six ambulances were left unmanned Sunday from midnight until noon. Another two were offline the remainder of the day.

“We’re doing everything we can to keep as many ambulance units on the road as we can,” said Honolulu EMS acting Chief Christopher Sloman.

But it hasn’t been easy.

Staffing shortages have been a problem for Honolulu EMS for years ― even prior to the pandemic.

Sometimes, that leads to temporary station closures.

Sloman says over the past month the agency has averaged less than two closures a day.

“But occasionally we still have bad days and that’s what happened on Sunday,” he said. “This is unacceptable.”

Officials attributed it to a combination of scheduled vacations, sick calls and personnel on military leave. On top of that, there are currently 26 EMT and paramedic positions that need to be filled.

Retaining employees has also been a challenge.

In the past year, EMS has hired 40 people. During that same time 42 left, often for better paying jobs.

HNN reached out to the city to ask what the Blangiardi administration is doing about the issue. A spokesperson acknowledged the staffing shortage and said “hiring first responders is a top priority.”

Meanwhile, EMS officials want to assure the public if there’s an emergency an ambulance will be there to respond.

“We do shift our resources before emergencies happen,” Sloman said.

He also added calls are prioritized. “Someone who calls and is having trouble breathing is a much higher priority call than someone with back pain,” he said.

The department is also considering offering incentives in an effort to recruit and retain staff.

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