Politics Puts Fire-EMS Merge On Front Burner

Michael Levine/Civil Beat

A seemingly innocuous statement by one of the leading candidates for Honolulu mayor has reignited a blaze of accusations and concerns about a potential merger of the city's Fire and Emergency Services departments.

The statement — "EMS will benefit by receiving better training and equipment and will work hand-in-hand with the firefighters to save lives" — is buried at the bottom of the second paragraph on the fourth page of Kirk Caldwell's "roadmap" booklet of his issue platforms distributed to media and supporters in recent weeks.

Caldwell says in the "Safety First" section that a merger — which he says began during his time as the city's managing director — needs to be moved forward and "makes critical sense." But some leaders and paramedics who would be impacted by a merger are incensed at the suggestion that their services are lacking.

"What training does the Fire Department do that relates to EMS? They don't have a permanent training program," said paramedic Theresa McGregor.

HFD trains its firefighters at a national standard level, but not at the considerably higher state threshold required for EMTs and paramedics to work on an ambulance in Hawaii. Medics with advanced life support training can insert breathing tubes, administer medications in the field and perform other interventions that EMTs with less training cannot.

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