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Possible Transfer Of O?ahu EMS System Causing Concern At Honolulu Hale

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A state proposal would transfer the responsibility and costs of emergency medical services on Oahu from the state Department of Health to the City and County of Honolulu. But the City is urging the legislature to oppose the measure.

House Bill 1281 proposes a four-year transfer of the EMS system from the state to the City starting as soon as this year. Under the measure, the state would fully subsidize the program for a year, and steadily reduce its contribution until the end of the fourth year. At that time, the City would operate the system, but would have no policy oversight.

The health department estimates this would save the state roughly $51 million.

But the Honolulu City Council and the Blangiardi administration don't know how much it will cost the City and its taxpayers. Currently, the state health department reimburses the City for any EMS costs.

The Council passed a measure Wednesday urging the legislature to oppose the transfer -- especially when the city is facing its own financial struggles, and no research into how the City would manage the system.

Managing Director Mike Formby told council members the administration was approached by Governor David Ige in January.

"And the request, at that time, was whether or not the county would consider taking over the EMS system," he said. "At the time, there was no promise or commitment made, but there was certainly an indication by the mayor that he was willing to consider."

Formby says in the following weeks, HB 1281 was introduced in the legislature, and details of a possible hand-off started to change and become more vague. He says the Blangiardi administration have been reaching out to state lawmakers to stop the bill.

"We don't even know what we don't know," Formby said. "So they put this on us, the county could not come to the Council and say 'this is what we need to establish, these are the positions we ned, this is how the council should be involved, these are the rules we need to pass' . . .  we don't know that."

In a statement, Governor Ige's chief of staff Linda Chu Takayama said the matter is still discussion, and details are not at all final.

HB 1281 crossed over from the House to the Senate earlier this month. It has been referred to the Senate's Ways and Means, Judiciary, and Health committees.

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