• Last modified 1597 days ago (March 5, 2015)


County ultimatum leads to shake-up at Tampa EMS

News editor

Jesse Brunner is out, and Ron Mueller is in as Tampa EMS crew chief in the wake of a demand by county commissioners Friday for new leadership.

Commission Chairman Dan Holub issued the edict for change after a 35-minute executive session with County EMS Director Brandi McCarty, EMS Board Chairman Gene Winkler, and Commissioners Randy Dallke and Lori Lalouette.

Holub said the county would pull the ambulance out of Tampa if the local crew didn’t appoint a new chief within five days. The change was necessary, he said, because of a loss of confidence in Brunner and his refusal to work with the EMS board.

“We didn’t want to shut them down, but we had to change what we were doing,” Holub said.

Winkler emphasized that the board wanted to maintain the ambulance in Tampa, but that greater cooperation was needed.

Brunner said that when he received a call from Holub informing him of the commission’s decision, he knew what he had to do.

“Instead of waiting until Wednesday, I actually resigned Feb. 28, effective at midnight,” Brunner said. “Due to misunderstandings and a communication breakdown, it became apparent it was best for all concerned for a new crew chief to take over.”

Brunner declined to discuss specifics, saying he didn’t want to be confrontational with the commissioners.

He did open up about his concern about miscommunication that could have led to reduced services out of Tampa.

Several Tampa ambulance crew members live further than the state standard of 5 to 7 minutes from reaching the ambulance when a call goes out. Brunner said he scheduled personnel so that at least one person could get to the ambulance in that period, and the required second responder would rendezvous en route or drive directly to the site of the call.

The miscommunication came, Brunner said, when it appeared McCarty and the board wanted to restrict those responding from a distance from going on runs. That would have limited the availability of the ambulance and forced more Tampa EMTs into first-responder situations.

“When you go on first-responder status, a lot of times they don’t have anybody available, and on first-responder status you can’t transport,” Brunner said.

With ambulances having to come from Hillsboro or Marion instead, Brunner said he was concerned about the time element in getting people to hospitals.

“That’s why I was fighting so hard, I was doing it for the betterment of the people in our area,” he said. “The new board was trying to improve the services, and in doing so I think there was some miscommunication.”

Brunner said he believed the issue to be resolved, and that ambulance runs from Tampa won’t be curtailed.

“It’s business as usual,” he said. “There’s never been a hiccup.”

Brunner said he was disappointed in how the change came about, but shouldered some responsibility.

“The way it came to me, the breakdown in communication put me on the defensive,” he said. “I probably should’ve called and talked to them, but I didn’t. Life goes on, and no hard feelings. At the end of the day, it’s not about us, it’s about being able to help people in time of medical need.”

To that end, Brunner said he was committed to remaining on the schedule to respond to Tampa call-outs.

Last modified March 5, 2015