National EMS Week celebrates heroic frontline workers

  • An injured patient is taken by Emergency Medical Service personnel following an incident Monday afternoon at Laaloa Beach Park. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today)

  • Hawaii County Fire Department rescue personnel load the victim of a crash at Old Kona Airport Park into an ambulance for transport to Kona Community Hospital. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today file photo)

  • Hawaii County EMS personnel pose in front of an ambulance. (Courtesy Photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • An EMS practitioner uses the mask adapter kit to get a proper fit for his N95 mask. (Courtesy Photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • EMS Battalion Chief Chris Honda, left, Assistant Fire Chief Darwin Okinaka and Assistant Fire Chief Robert Perreira pose with no-contact thermometers donated by the Daniel R. Sayre Memorial Foundation. (Courtesy Photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)

This week, communities around the country are honoring frontline Emergency Medical Service workers for their endless heroic performance under pressure.

The 46th annual National EMS Week, a time to celebrate EMS practitioners and the important work they do in our nation’s communities, continues through Sunday.

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“They are out there 24/7,” said Hawaii Fire Department EMS Chief Chris Honda of the fire department’s paramedics and emergency medical technicians while also recognizing a host of partner agencies including the Hawaii Police Department, state and federal fire departments, and private ambulance services.

“For their efforts, especially at a time like this, dealing with a worldwide pandemic issue like COVID adds a lot more stress out there. They continue doing it without question, going above and beyond,” he said.

Honda has been in EMS for 25 years said never were they faced with something like this.

“It’s something new and a first time for all of us,” he said. “We will get through this together. We are learning, it’s developing every day. I’m really proud of all the work everyone is doing out there out on the front line and I really want to recognize them for the valiant efforts.”

Since COVID-19 appeared on Hawaii Island, EMS has seen an approximately 25% decrease in call volume. The county has 16 advance support ambulances and one medical support helicopter to cover 4,000 square miles.

“That was telling us that people are listening and staying home and abiding by the rules,” he said. “That’s what’s helping us stabilize as far as COVID. We have seen a slight uptick recently, but are still under 20% of our local call volume.”

Honda said his department is preparing should there be another spike in the future, especially making sure they have enough safety equipment and PPE for their personnel should call volumes start to increase.

“We are working with DOH and CDC and our local civil defense should we ever get to that threshold, which we hope we don’t. We’re preparing for the worst and hoping for the best,” said Honda.

Honda said they were very fortunate that the Daniel R. Sayre Memorial Foundation helped them acquire a PortaCount N95 Mask Adapter Kit. The kit ensures all personnel have the right mask in the right size so they it is being used appropriately.

“They also assisted us with purchasing 40 infrared thermal scan, no-contact thermometers,” he said. “We are using that out in the community with our patients as well as our own personnel, doing screening of crews at our stations, our recruit classes and assisting with drive-through screening.”

These essential life-saving items were made possible through a $25,000 gift from the Kirk-Landry Charitable Fund.

“We are unbelievably grateful for this gift and the generous hearts of these amazing donors in helping to assist our most at-risk personnel during this pandemic,” said foundation founder Laura Mallery-Sayre.

Honda said that it takes a special person to be in emergency medical service. He or she must have the knowledge and the skill set to function under the most chaotic and stressful situations.

“That’s a gift and not everyone can do it,” he said. “The mental stress they deal with day in and day out is something people don’t know. We are really proud of them.”

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These frontline men and women do this job without expecting any “thank you,” but Honda suggests when you see them say “hi” and thank them for their service.

“That goes a long way,” he said. “We’ve been very fortunate; we’ve had people stopping at the stations just to say thank you and have had donations through the county for various types of masks and PPE. All those little things go a long way. And that speaks volumes to us. We really appreciate things like that.”

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