Imagine dialing 911 for a medical emergency and an ambulance does not show up.
That is exactly what has been happening recently in Santa Clara County, according to firefighters. Staffing issues have led to ambulances sometimes waiting for firefighters to arrive on scene to determine whether a patient needs to be transported to the hospital.
Firefighters are now concerned and wonder if the delay could turn deadly.
“This happens several times a week,” said Matt Tuttle, president of San Jose Firefighters Local 230. “It’s been an ongoing issue where no ambulance gets dispatched because there are not enough in the system. An ambulance doesn’t get dispatched until the fire department arrives on scene and specifically requests one to show up.”
The practice is called SDO 17, or Standard Dispatch Order 17.
Steven Hayes, who serves as president of the Gilroy firefighters union, said the practice is also happening in Gilroy.
“SDO 17 is extremely concerning in that it ties our resources to the scene much longer than we’ve ever experienced,” Hayes said.
Hayes said it is not rare for crews to wait up to 45 minutes for an ambulance.
“The obvious concern is for our citizens. Any delay in being able to get transported to the hospital for further definitive care, that can obviously have major impact in somebody’s help,” Tuttle said.
Meanwhile, people outside a South Bay hospital on Tuesday said if they dial 911 for a medical emergency, they expect to see an ambulance.
South Bay resident Miriam Bolanos said there is always accidents at home, so an ambulance is crucial.
The San Jose Fire Department said it has three ambulances in the department it had to use more frequently, while Gilroy has one ambulance. The departments said each time they are in use instead of a county ambulance being called, it puts other personnel or apparatus out of service.
Santa Clara County provided the following statement:
“The standard procedure for 9-1-1 calls requiring medical assistance is for both an EMT and a Paramedic to be dispatched to the scene. County EMS triages calls to ensure the proper level of response is dispatched for each situation and they are prioritized based on each analysis. When call volume exceeds ambulance availability, Standard Dispatch Order #17 may be used to conserve resources to ensure that ambulances are used on responses that have verified patients in need of ambulance transport. Not all EMS calls require ambulance transport. Historically 35% of all EMS calls do not result in an ambulance transport.”
Source: NBC Bay Area