Oahu ambulance units close due to overnight staff shortage

It’s the first time the Honolulu Emergency Medical Services Division has faced this problem: too many employees calling in sick.

EMS couldn’t talk on camera or by phone, but told KHON2 the unexpected staff shortage forced them to temporarily suspend service at four of its 22 units on Oahu.

The closures impacted the Waianae and Pawaa units from 11 p.m. Saturday to 7 a.m. Sunday. On Sunday, the Makiki and Waipio units were also affected.

The Makiki ambulance was one of two units closed from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. You might wonder why an ambulance unit in Honolulu would be closed. EMS says surrounding units in town helped cover the area.

EMS says the four units were strategically closed and that patient care was never jeopardized.

We wanted to know if EMS had a back-up plan. They said the American Medical Response, a private ambulance service, was on-call to provide help.

Currently, the city has about 200 EMTs and paramedics, who respond to more than 66,000 medical emergencies and traumatic injuries each year.

EMS recently hired 15 EMTs, and says there is a high turnover rate.

Currently, 15 EMTs are taking a training course to become paramedics. There are also 18 people taking a course to become EMTs. Once the courses are completed, they can help fill in the job vacancies.

EMS provided the following statement:

“EMS says employees continue to provide excellent patient care despite the mandatory overtime which has contributed to the staffing shortage. EMS continues to work on solutions to relieve shortages.”

As for the future, EMS says they never want this to happen again. They plan to meet on Monday to figure out the next step and find a solution.

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