City May Need $1 Million From State For Extra Ambulances
The Additional Coverage Was Added After HMC Closed Its ERs
The pending closures of the two Hawaii Medical Center hospitals in Liliha and Ewa had ripple effects throughout Oahu Monday.
At mid-afternoon, most emergency departments in Honolulu were full and on "divert status" because of the two ERs that closed a week and a half ago at HMC-West and HMC-East. Only Castle Medical Center in Kailua and Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center on the Leeward side had room in their emergency departments as of Monday afternoon.
The city is planning to hire more ambulance personnel and perhaps ask for an emergency appropriation from the state to help cover the costs of fallout from the closure of the bankrupt hospitals.
The city has pressed two extra ambulances into service to help pick up the load from the closure of the two emergency rooms.
One rig, called ?Kokua One,? formerly a spare, is based at Kuakini Medical Center in Nuuanu and staffed from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. It?s what ambulance officials call a ?floater,? roving around the island, filling in where necessary. That unit is already seeing handling between eight and 12 calls a day, according to city emergency services officials.
A second ambulance has been based at the Kapolei fire station, available 24 hours to respond to emergencies in Central and West Oahu. It joins another ambulance already based at the fire station.
"The ambulances, they do have advanced life support. We start treatment right away, actually from the patient's house or accident scene, so the care they're getting is exactly the same, it's just that their time in the back of the ambulance may be a little longer," said Dr. Jim Ireland, the city emergency services director.
He said that's because instead of taking patients to HMC-West in Ewa, ambulance crews now must to transport them from Central and West Oahu to ERs far away, such as Queens Medical Center in town.
Those extra ambulances and crews may be needed for six months to a year, until a new owner reopens at least one of the hospitals.
"If we're going to sustain additional operations, we may need some additional funding for those units," Ireland said.
Ireland said the city will try to fund about 15 extra emergency medical technicians and paramedics needed for this service within its existing budget.
But if the situation persists for a year, the city could ask for as much as $1 million extra from the state, which covers the costs of county ambulance service.
"We're looking to hire as many as we can to fill not only our vacancies, but also to cover these additional units," Ireland said.
The city has posted job openings for EMTs and paramedics, hoping to fill 28 vacancies out of roughly 200 positions.
And it's getting help from Kapiolani Community College, which just graduated a class of 18 EMTs. KCC is adding a third EMT class to its schedule in the next year, Ireland said.
"Instead of having two EMT classes this year, they're going to add a summer class, from what I've been told. So that will really bolster our workforce," Ireland said. "We really want to make sure that when people call 911, they get expeditious medical care, and get taken to the closest appropriate facility.?
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