EMS personnel need special equipment to handle obese patients

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

BLYTHEVILLE, AR (KAIT) - In spite of everything we know about obesity and it's dangers, Americans keep growing.  And that's causing problems for emergency personnel.

Worldwide the problem of how to deal with morbidly obese people is becoming a real issue for EMS personnel.

Small ambulance companies are not able to afford much of the high priced gear needed. They may have to use ingenuity and local resources instead.

"A 300 pound patient is not that uncommon of a patient." Kevin Jackson told me. Kevin is the EMS Supervisor for the Mississippi County Emergency Medical Services ambulance company in Blytheville.

A typical ambulance stretcher will handle a 750 pound person with the stretcher in its lowest position. But you still have to get the large patient into the ambulance.

Jackson, "As you pick those stretchers up, elevate them the ratings change."

The problem of dealing with bariatric patients has grown so common that 3 out of the 5 ambulances for Mississippi County EMS have been rigged up to accept ramps and a winch up here in the front.

With a large patient sometimes you have to call for help. Jackson says they can call on the volunteers from the Blytheville Emergency Squad.

Jackson, "The Blytheville Emergency Squad was some of the innovators in taking care of larger patients here in Mississippi County."

Mike Godsey, the President of the Blytheville Rescue Squad, rolled out the "Super Stretcher".

Godsey, "This one is rated to hold in this position right here it can hold 850 pounds. Down in the down squatting position it can hold 1600 pounds."

The stretcher cost 6400 dollars and was purchased using grant money. Like Mississippi County EMS, the rescue squad built their own ramps which can be used on their own ambulance or any ambulance.

However, no matter how large the gurney you still have to get the patient on it.

Jackson, "Typically you may find them in the back of a house, in a bed down a hallway, the stretcher may not go down that hallway and you may have to carry that patient."

You may need to use the "Mega Mover". A large fabric carrier with many handles attached to it.

"It takes quite a few people to handle somebody even as small as I am."

Which could divert EMS personnel from other emergencies.

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