Answering the Alarm on Paramedic Service in Sunnyvale 

A few weeks ago, the Sunnyvale Public Safety Officers Association (PSOA), representing police officers and firefighters, publicly spoke out about the delays in paramedic and ambulance responses in Sunnyvale (NBC Bay Area, San Jose Spotlight). Given the very real public safety implications, we felt compelled to sound the alarm, and we are glad we did. We are pleased to announce that additional resources are on the way.

Not everyone was pleased with our decision to bring this problem to light. Nor were they pleased with our request of Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety (DPS) leadership and top city administrators to develop an immediate solution that addresses Sunnyvale’s unique challenges related to paramedic and ambulance services. However, that is not the case for all stakeholders on this issue.

The PSOA is pleased that the County’s 9-1-1 Emergency Medical Services and Ambulance provider, American Medical Response (AMR), reached out to the PSOA to discuss our response time concerns and to work collaboratively on solutions. We had a frank discussion about response times in Sunnyvale that validated our concerns, and AMR discussed the multiple systemic issues that likely drive those longer response times. AMR was transparent with its data and had an open mind about how it could help improve paramedic coverage in Sunnyvale.

In our discussion, AMR stated they are willing to add two additional paramedics dedicated exclusively to Sunnyvale.  Additionally, AMR listened to our input as frontline public safety professionals (providing police, fire, and EMS services), about how those medics can be assigned over the course of the day to maximize paramedic coverage in the city. They will discuss our recommendations with Sunnyvale DPS leadership this week. This plan will be implemented without additional cost to the City of Sunnyvale.

Based on our experiences in the field, our own analysis of the systemwide challenges, and our conversation with AMR, the PSOA supports this proposal, and we urge Sunnyvale DPS and top City administrators to do what is necessary to assist AMR in getting those medics in the field and answering calls as quickly as possible.

Is this a perfect solution? No. Will it solve all of Sunnyvale’s paramedic/ambulance service issues? No, it will not. In fact, one of the most refreshing aspects of our discussion with AMR was their honesty as to what this proposal can do to help as well as its limitations. This is a complex, countywide problem that will require the work of all participating cities, the County, AMR, and all stakeholders.

There is no silver bullet to solve everything. This is a fact we’ve known since we first publicly raised the issue. We appreciate, however, that we are not alone in feeling that an immediate partial solution benefits the public more than waiting for months and months of meetings to yield a “perfect solution.”

Finally, when you provide emergency medical services, you accept the fact that what works on paper may not exactly work in the field. You must adapt, adjust, and overcome challenges that emerge. AMR understands that reality and has committed to maintaining an ongoing relationship with the PSOA so they can get first-hand feedback from the Public Safety officers who respond to every 911 call in the city. We appreciate their willingness to hear our unfiltered truth as we both work to provide the most efficient and highest quality of care possible to the people of Sunnyvale.

We look forward to seeing a solution implemented, and we look forward to seeing a paramedic on our calls to provide care for our patients faster than in the recent past. Because, at the end of the day, we all owe our patients the best medical care possible. They deserve it.