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Guamanians tired of ambulance shortage

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by Nick Delgado

Guam - More alarms are sounding off on the island's ambulance crisis. Island residents are growing impatient and frustrated with the shortage of medics, hoping there's a solution to the critical situation.

On Monday Mongmong resident Janet Lujan Wiggins called 911. Her friend was in dire need of emergency treatment and was waiting for a transport to the hospital.  Instead they anxiously awaited the arrival of an ambulance. Nearly an hour later, one finally arrived.

She recalled, "I was very upset...I was constantly asking the firemen where's the ambulance because he was complaining that he was light headed and numbness on both hands, so I just  cant believe that there's only three ambulances working."  Wiggins is frustrated that the island doesn't have an adequate number of ambulances to service the entire island.  The situation is slowly improving. 

Guam Fire Department Acting Spokesperson Captain Ed Flores says five units are up and running in Barrigada, Tamuning, Piti, Yona and Yigo.  "As far as the community is concerned, one thing to maybe remember is all of the Guam Fire Department firefighters are all EMT certified, whether it's an ambulance or fire truck, or one of our rescue units, EMTs are always on the scene," he said.

"They should have more ambulance operable because in a situation like this we don't know whether the patient or that person is having a heart attack or stroke," he added.

GFD currently has several fire trucks awaiting repairs - and until those are back up and running, other residents are likely to feel the same frustration as Wiggins.  "There's a big difference between emergency ambulances and transport vehicles, there are rules and regulations that need to be followed," explained Emergency Medical Services Commission Secretary Lucy Perez.

She says they're hoping they can provide some help to the critical situation at the fire department.  The Commission is working to develop a set standard to present to the Legislature that would allow for private companies to assist primarily with non-emergency calls.  "Everyone is looking to bettering the emergency system, we have four companies on island that are transport vehicles, that means is they would pick up patients at home and take them to doctors appointments, pick them up at the doctors appointments and take them back home," she added.

The Commission plans to meet with those companies later this month to work out some sort of solution that will help free up the Guam Fire Department's ambulances for real life and death emergencies.

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