Paramedics: Cuts To Emergency Medical Services Still a Threat

File photo. Anthony Goodrich/MAUIWatch.

It’s been two months since the state Department of Health asked Emergency Medical Services (EMS) statewide to prepare for budget cuts up to 20%. American Medical Response (AMR), who provides emergency services statewide, submitted its reduced budget proposal to the Department of Health on August 17. The Maui County Paramedics Association is seeking support from the community to avoid budget cuts for these crucial health services by contacting their legislators and Mayor Victorino. This is your call to action.

There is still no timeline for these potential cuts, leaving Maui County paramedics anxious about the community’s health and safety needs. There is also no confirmation on whether federal CARES Act money is earmarked for Maui County emergency services despite the state receiving federal funds for such.

“The threat of losing emergency services in the middle of a pandemic is dangerously short-sighted, and very real,” said Kapena Hill, vice president, Maui County Paramedics Association. “The Maui County paramedics stand alongside those that serve Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, and Hawaiʻi Island in asking for help to prevent the cut of any emergency services statewide. We urge residents to voice their protest.”

In 2019, there were 20,668 emergency calls in Maui County. Emergency call volume in Maui County has increased 12% over the last five years, without any increase in budget or EMS staffing units. Currently, there are ten transport stations, one rapid response unit, and one medical evacuation (medevac) helicopter serving Maui, Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi.

AMR operates Maui County’s EMS. AMR’s reduced budget proposal for the Department of Health includes cutting multiple EMS units. Emergency ambulance response for 95% of all calls currently averages 20 minutes. The absence of just one station would delay this response time and coverage for other units, putting the severely injured and sick at greater risk in the golden hour of care.

Another proposed cut in service is the medevac helicopter, which aids Maui County’s outlying communities, including Hāna, Kahakuloa, Molokaʻi, and Lānaʻi.

“Every community needs to understand that this could affect them both directly and indirectly. The proposed cuts highlight a lack of regard for EMS value, and will make it ‘okay’ to make people wait longer for help when they call 911,” said Hill. “This is not acceptable.”

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