Lawmaker fights against ambulance cuts in Ewa Beach

A state lawmaker says Ewa Beach residents aren’t getting their fair share of services, and it’s not right.

We first told you last month that Emergency Medical Services will cut its hours of operation at Ewa Beach and Makiki from 16 hours a day to 12 hours.

It’s part of a new agreement with the union to keep the staff on 12-hour shifts. Critics question why a growing community such as Ewa Beach has been targeted.

EMS director Mark Rigg points out that the Ewa Beach ambulance unit opened in July 2012, a few months after Hawaii Medical West shut down.

Paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) were forced to travel longer to transport patients so the department received emergency funding for the Ewa Beach unit.

“So we continue to keep Ewa Beach open. The initial plan was to close Ewa Beach after Queen’s (Medical Center) West opened back up but we’re not going to close it,” Rigg said.

But the hours for Ewa Beach and Makiki will be reduced. Instead of 7 a.m.-11 p.m., they will operate from noon to midnight.

“The people of Ewa Beach pay more than their fair share of taxes for the little infrastructure that we get. Having a full-time EMS is something that should be basic for the 70-plus thousand people who live in Ewa Beach,” said Rep. Matt Lopresti, D, Ewa Villages, Ewa Beach, Ewa Gentry, Ocean Pointe.

Rigg tells us that in addition to having nearby units cover Ewa Beach during the off-hours, other emergency responders can help.

“Fire co-responds on chest pain cases, shortness of breath, unconscious, bad traffic accidents. We send them on about half of the calls we respond to,” Rigg said.

EMS has 20 ambulance units on Oahu. Only two of them, Ewa Beach and Makiki, do not operate 24 hours.

Rigg says it will take another million dollars a year for each of those two units to operate 24 hours.

EMS received $35 million last fiscal year and $37 million this year. Rigg tells us that extra two million just cover the cost in raises for employees, so he says it comes down to the legislature giving them more money.

“Is that something the legislature is willing to do to keep it open 24 hours?” KHON2 asked Lopresti.

“It’s something I would have to have a conversation with my colleagues in the legislature,” he said.

While EMS is considered a city service, the state does provide most of the funding. Rigg says he will ask state legislators for more money next session.

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