The exterior of a government building and parking lot in Sunnyvale.
The Sunnyvale Public Safety Headquarters is seen in this file photo.

Whether it’s a robbery in progress at a local business, a home with a fire in the kitchen or a resident suffering a heart attack, seconds mean the difference between safety and harm and life and death.

We care deeply about everyone we serve. The people who live, work and visit our city deserve the highest quality police, fire and emergency medical services. Unfortunately, that’s not the case in Sunnyvale right now.

Why? Because for approximately the last 12 months, some Sunnyvale residents have been unable to receive sufficient emergency paramedic care and ambulance transportation due in part to a countywide shortage of paramedics.

Over the last year, we’ve treated patients on medical calls where it took an ambulance 20 minutes to arrive instead of within our required eight-minute response time. If a patient is suffering from a stroke, heart attack or any other life-threatening condition, those extra 12 minutes may be catastrophic. There have even been occasions when no ambulance arrived at all.

Unfortunately, this countywide paramedic deficiency disproportionately impacts Sunnyvale residents more than residents of any other city in our county. Sunnyvale public safety officers are trained police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians, or EMTs.  Our officers are not, however, paramedics. In contrast, every other fire department in Santa Clara County has paramedics on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Why is it important for a paramedic to arrive in a timely fashion? Paramedics are more highly trained than we are as EMTs, licensed to administer lifesaving medications and provide advanced medical procedures during cardiac and respiratory emergencies.

Sunnyvale is the only city in the county where a paramedic will not be at your side when Santa Clara County Emergency Medical Services does not send an ambulance. The absence of a paramedic and ambulance also means Sunnyvale patients will be significantly delayed in receiving transportation to a local hospital for further treatment by an emergency room doctor.

Sadly, over the last year, we have witnessed many Sunnyvale patients who needed prompt paramedic care unnecessarily suffer. It’s heartbreaking for us to watch our Sunnyvale patients, both young and old, not receive the emergency medical care they desperately need and deserve in a timely manner.

This must change as soon as possible, and doing nothing is unacceptable.

Several cities in Santa Clara County have developed solutions that meet their needs. For example, Palo Alto has its own paramedic-staffed ambulance service. The city of Santa Clara uses “STAR” cars — defacto ambulances — to facilitate the transportation of critical patients when a county ambulance cannot come quickly enough. San Jose and Gilroy have implemented similar programs. Across the country, there are countless examples of effective solutions to ensure patients have the paramedic and ambulance transport services they need.

We’re calling on Sunnyvale leaders within the department, as well as the city’s top administrators, to immediately find a solution that works specifically for Sunnyvale. It may be one of the models listed above, it may be an entirely different solution. However, our residents have lived for too long with inadequate paramedic services, and we are frustrated that no solution has been developed or implemented for Sunnyvale patients.

We sincerely hope that sharing this information accelerates the development and implementation of a solution to this significant problem. Each of you expects and deserves the highest level of police, fire and EMS services, and we are steadfastly committed to providing it to you.

Devon Klein is the president of the Sunnyvale Public Safety Officers Association, and a lieutenant in Sunnyvale’s Department of Public Safety.

Comment Policy (updated 5/10/2023): Readers are required to log in through a social media or email platform to confirm authenticity. We reserve the right to delete comments or ban users who engage in personal attacks, hate speech, excess profanity or make verifiably false statements. Comments are moderated and approved by admin.

Leave a Reply