Maalaea rapid-response vehicle goes into service

American Medical Response has added a rapid-response vehicle, staffed by a paramedic, providing 24-hour, first-responder medical services and based in Maalaea, the county’s emergency ambulance service provider announced last week.

“There is no question this rapid-response unit will save lives and stabilize patients in the crucial initial stage of injury, illness or cardiac arrest,” said Curt Morimoto, AMR operations manager.

The 2014 Ford Explorer is staffed by a paramedic equipped with lifesaving emergency medical equipment. It will be in operation around the clock, 365 days a year, he said.

The response vehicle was funded through a bill signed into law in June and sponsored by West and South Maui Sen. Roz Baker.

“This is terrific news, and it’s ahead of schedule,” Baker said last week. “I wasn’t anticipating it would be in service before the first of the year.

“This unit will enhance emergency medical response time, especially in the South and West Maui regions, the busiest EMS regions on Maui island,” she said. “Too often both ambulance units in Kihei and Lahaina are out of the region on a call.”

The paramedic staffing the unit will be able to provide advanced lifesaving services when Fire Department first responders, who are trained in basic emergency medical services, are called to an emergency, Baker said.

She noted that such units have been used “successfully and cost-effectively on Oahu and on the Mainland.”

The Maalaea unit is the first rapid-response vehicle in the state to be deployed outside of Honolulu, said Linda Rosen, the state’s chief of Emergency Medical Services.

“It will have a positive impact,” she said. “It will assist folks in the community.”

The new unit is well-positioned to serve South and West Maui residents, Rosen said. And, it will help cover those areas when other units normally serving them are busy.

“The response time will improve for folks living in those surrounding communities,” she said.

The annual operating cost of the unit is approximately $600,000, she said, or about half the cost of a fully operating ambulance station with units equipped to transport patients.

Morimoto said that the unit addresses the population growth in Maalaea, but it also helps in South and West Maui.

“The rapid-response vehicle will help improve response times to medical emergencies in these districts by allowing a paramedic to begin providing advanced life support to patients before an ambulance arrives on scene,” he said.

Until the new unit was established last month, medical emergencies in Maalaea were handled by ambulance crews from Wailuku and Kihei, Morimoto said. That distance “can cost critical minutes in a life-or-death emergency.”

In October, the new unit was assigned 79 cases, he said. Of those, 19 required ambulance transport while 33 were standbys in West and South Maui. Other cases involved canceled calls or patients who refused treatment or transport, he said.

American Medical Response provides emergency ambulance services throughout the state and employs more than 250 emergency medical professionals.

* Brian Perry can be reached at