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Thule hospital vital safeguard at Top of the World

THULE AIR BASE, Greenland – Tech. Sgts. Amber Russo and Benjamin Dellacca, 821st Support Squadron Surgeon General Flight, inspect a piece of equipment at the Thule hospital. The pair ensures the hospital is stocked and the equipment works, and oversee the daily operations of the contracted Danish doctors and nurses who provide the health care at Thule AB, 750 miles north of the Arctic Circle. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ebony Robertson)

THULE AIR BASE, Greenland – Tech. Sgts. Amber Russo and Benjamin Dellacca, 821st Support Squadron Surgeon General Flight, inspect a piece of equipment at the Thule hospital. The pair ensures the hospital is stocked and the equipment works, and oversee the daily operations of the contracted Danish doctors and nurses who provide the health care at Thule AB, 750 miles north of the Arctic Circle. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ebony Robertson)

THULE AIR BASE, Greenland -- When you're living 750 miles north of the Arctic Circle and the closet big city is hours away by air, the availability of health care is a big deal.

Enter the Thule AB hospital. The 821st Air Base Group operates the Thule hospital, a small but vital facility at the Department of Defense's northernmost base.

"We manage the health care and medical programs at Thule," said Tech. Sgt. Amber Russo, 821st Support Squadron Surgeon General Flight chief. "We saw about 290 out-patients in July, and three in-patients."

Russo and Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Dellacca ensure the hospital is stocked and the equipment works, and oversee the daily operations of the contracted Danish doctors and nurses who provide the health care. The providers care for all the active duty and contractors stationed at Thule.

"Our Danish providers rotate every four to six weeks or so," Russo said. "We work with them on a daily basis as a liaison between them and (the 21st Medical Group at Peterson AFB) to make sure that our active duty members are medically ready and fit to fight."

"The providers do an amazing job providing care for our patients," she said. "They are very personable and love to interact with our active-duty members. It's a very unique assignment to be able to work with providers from a different country and they are a pleasure to work with every day."

The hospital, built in 2004, offers an emergency room, imaging including ultrasound and X-ray, a pharmacy, laboratory services, immunizations, primary care, a morgue and outpatient care. It also has beds for in-patients and an operating room for minor surgeries. Two dental chairs are also available for a visiting dentist from Denmark every couple months. The Drug Demand and Reduction Program, Self-Aid Buddy Care and CPR classes are also held at the hospital.

The in-patient admissions are typically for dehydration or a minor surgery, she said, while the really sick are flown out if necessary.

"For really sick patients we can air-evac them out, otherwise we work with Andrews Air Force Base for higher level care," Russo said.

While providing 24-hour emergency services in such a remote area is not simple, it's a job she said she enjoys.

"I like being here for the active duty," Russo said. "It's not out of the norm for (Airmen here) to see a provider from a different country, so it's nice to be here as a sort of patient advocate to help with their medical needs."

Peterson SFB Schriever SFBCheyenne Mountain SFSThule AB New Boston SFS Kaena Point SFS Maui