Army is urged to reconsider Fort Meade cuts

EMS reduction may hurt security, congressmen say

Anne Arundel

April 02, 2004|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

U.S. Reps. Benjamin L. Cardin and C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger strongly criticized yesterday the Army's decision to reduce emergency medical services at Fort Meade and urged the department to reconsider.

In a joint letter to Acting Secretary of the Army Les Brownlee, the Maryland congressmen expressed concerns that relying on other jurisdictions' ambulance support at night and on weekends could compromise security and put an undue burden on the Anne Arundel County Fire Department.

"It is unacceptable to have vital national security personnel at risk because of a delay in getting EMS service to the base," the congressmen wrote. "We are also concerned that having outside emergency vehicles and personnel entering Fort Meade could pose a security risk to [the National Security Administration's] classified operations."

NSA, the top-secret eavesdropping agency off Baltimore-Washington Parkway, is on the 5,000-acre Odenton Army post, along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's regional headquarters and the Defense Department's journalism and public-affairs school.

"Anne Arundel County cannot be expected to assume the responsibility being abandoned by the U.S. Army Medical Command," the letter said.

"We believe the impact on the surrounding community has not been thoroughly considered in this decision making process."

Beginning Monday, the Army plans to reduce EMS service from full-time, 24-hour coverage to Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., excluding weekends and holidays.

During off-hours, Fort Meade will rely on emergency services from the county's unit in Jessup.

The cuts for paramedics working from the Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center will save about $400,000 a year, or about half the cost of running the unit, which has 12 paramedics and three ambulances, Fort Meade EMS spokesman James Goetz has said.

About 6,000 military families live at Fort Meade, which also receives visits from thousands of military retirees each day.

Fort Meade EMS officials have said the post's paramedics can respond to nearly any call on the post in about five minutes.

Meade EMS officials have estimated that it could take an ambulance from Anne Arundel County's Jessup unit 15 minutes to reach the Army post's gates, and the ambulance still would have to clear security.

The proposal comes at a time when the Anne Arundel County department is grappling with staffing issues.

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