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Tampa providing emergency medical service at MacDill, including new ambulance

By Howard Altman
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn marks the opening in March of a new MacDill Air Force Base ambulance bay and bunkhouse. The new center is part of a contract in which MacDill will pay the city about $4.5 million annually to provide advanced life support services and transportation. [U.S. Air Force, 6th Air Mobility Wing]

TAMPA — Sick and injured people at MacDill Air Force Base now rely on crews from Tampa Fire Rescue for help, and soon, they’ll have their own dedicated ambulance.

Last month, the Tampa City Council approved the purchase of a $323,000 Braun Super Chief Type 1 Rescue Car as part of the city’s agreement with MacDill to provide advanced life support and transportation services on base.

When the agreement was implemented in March, MacDill became the first Air Force base to partner with a local government to provide these services, said Air Force Capt. Jessica Brown, spokeswoman for the 6th Air Mobility Wing, the base host unit.

While the base has a clinic, a number of serious medical situations require the service that Tampa Fire Rescue is trained to provide.

The agreement calls for the wing to pay the city about $4.5 million over the life of a five year contact plus options, according to Capt. Jessica Brown, the wing spokeswoman. The agreement was designed to ensure that MacDill meets Pentagon rules calling for response times within 12 minutes, Brown said.

The agreement was designed to ensure that MacDill meets Pentagon rules calling for response times within 12 minutes, Brown said.

In March, base officials opened up a new ambulance bay and bunkhouse created to house Tampa Fire Rescue and the transportation now in use. It will be another couple of months before the new, dedicated ambulance arrives because money to purchase it was allocated last month, said Tampa Fire Rescue spokesman Jason Penny.

"The value of this service cannot be overstated," Brown said. "It is truly life-saving."

The contract also provides a greater level of integration between MacDill and Tampa Fire Rescue, which have had a long-standing working relationship, Brown said.

"There are now opportunities for our uniformed medics to get practical experience riding with paramedics and receiving instruction from them," Brown said.

MacDill airmen will partner with city paramedics.

Tampa Fire Rescue provides eight personnel during each of the three shifts it operates each day at MacDill, said Barbara Tripp, Tampa Fire Rescue’s rescue chief.

The agreement "is going great," said Tripp, estimating that crews at MacDill respond to about five to eight calls for service daily.

Tampa Fire Rescue and crews from the wing have jointly responded to hundreds of calls since the service began March 1, Brown said. Those calls have included response, treatment and transport of people with strokes, heart attacks, seizures and other medical emergencies.

In addition to serving the nearly 20,000 people who work at the base, Tampa Fire Rescue crews also can respond to medical emergencies at the family camping ground there, Tripp said.

"There are a lot of retirees and snowbirds," Tripp said. "We basically go out and treat them. One of the main focuses is to provide emergency care as soon as possible."

Because they sometimes have to enter secure areas like the headquarters of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command, Tampa Fire Rescue personnel assigned to the base must undergo a background check, Tripp said.

Contact Howard Altman at [email protected] or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman.