Critics say 12-hour EMS schedule could be deadly in some communities

The 12-hour schedule for Emergency Medical Services workers has been a money-saver for the city and was recently approved for another year.

But critics say the new agreement could put you at risk, depending on where you live.

They say it’s not so bad in Makiki, where other ambulances are nearby. But in Ewa Beach, some say cutting back the hours puts lives in danger.

The Ewa Beach ambulance unit is stationed just outside Ewa Villages Golf Course. Normal hours of operation are 7 a.m. until 11 p.m., but starting Aug. 30, the hours will be noon to midnight.

It’s enough to make some area residents a little uneasy, “because I heard that most heart attacks happen in the morning and I think that’s when you need the ambulance,” said Ewa Beach resident Terry Corrigan.

“I think that’s perfectly outrageous. This is a growing community with a lot of elderly folks,” said Santo DiMartino, a physician’s assistant with Access Medical Clinics.

EMS tells us that ambulances from Waipahu, Waipio and Makakilo can cover the area during the hours that Ewa Beach is closed.

ems coverage map

But DiMartino says that could mean delays in getting to those who need immediate medical attention.

“When you have an emergency situation, it’s always best to be there immediately to evaluate the situation and find out what’s going on as soon as possible. That’s the key to saving most lives,” he said.

An EMS spokeswoman tells us the move is meant is to better utilize the shifts during peak hours. Keeping the units open for 16 hours would require two eight-hour shifts, whereas the new hours would just require one 12-hour shift.

She says there were 916 calls in Ewa Beach last year from 7 a.m. to noon, averaging out to two and a half per day. This year, there have been 540 calls so far, the same average of two and a half per day.

Even though there may not be a lot of calls during those hours, critics point out that lives could be at stake. The councilwoman for the district tells us cutting back on any emergency service is never a good idea.

“It’s my hope that we’re not going to be affected negatively in any way, but it’s not something that you want to cross your fingers on, because there’s a lot of chances that they’re taking with this cut,” said Honolulu City Councilmember Kymberly Pine.

The 12-hour shifts did cut down on the overtime costs, but critics tell us cutting back the hours should not be part of the agreement.

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