Guam fire department personnel who respond to emergencies on a daily basis know that a single minute can mean the difference between life and death. While the first firefighters on the scene are trained to provide basic emt services, what's alarming is that it may take the department longer to respond to critical situations that require immediate hospitalization-as there are only six working ambulances for the entire island. Batallion chief Roy Dirige says, "The optimal number we'd like to see is 8 or 9 running in the fleet but with mechanical problems with some of our units. We don't want to rush that also because if the patients are on the rig and they're on the road that's going to cause even more problems".
Just today, a firefighter who wishes to remain anonymous said that a medic from Inarajan was called to respond to an incident in Tamuning and a medic in Agat was called to Yigo. While the fire department has previously relied on a mutual aid agreement with the military to assist them when there are ambulance shortages, that assistance has been scaled back. GFD spokesperson Joey San Nicholas said, "They are also at critical levels so their ability to help outside the fenceline is also affected. We're both going through somewhat of a similar situation".
While firefighters say they are coping with the medic shortage it remains a troubling fact that unless remedied soon will only get worse with the impending military buildup which will mean a much larger population to serve.
by Janjeera Hail