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Ohio county buys ambulance for obese patients

Three central Ohio agencies now have equipment designed for patients up to 10 times heavier than normal weight

By Dean Narciso
The Columbus Dispatch

DELAWARE COUNTY, Ohio — When obese people need emergency care, routine ambulance runs can become complex and dangerous for both the patient and medics.

Additional workers are needed to lift patients and get them into an ambulance. And those doing the lifting and maneuvering the gurney risk back injuries and muscle strains.

That’s why three central Ohio agencies now have equipment designed for patients up to 10 times heavier than normal weight.

“There’s only so much real estate around a human being used as lifting points,” said Chief Michael Schuiling of Delaware County Emergency Medical Services.

His agency put an ambulance into service this week that is dedicated to the morbidly obese. Two others are in use in Franklin County.

The vehicles have extra-wide cots, loading ramps and winches. Unlike most other ambulances designed for patients up to about 700 pounds, they can carry patients up to 1,600 pounds, Schuiling said.

The gurneys cost about $9,000. Winches and ramps are about $5,000. With retrofitting costs, a bariatric ambulance can top $20,000.

Four bariatric ambulance systems have been bought with federal disaster-preparedness funds administered by the Central Ohio Trauma System, said Marie Robinette, the trauma system’s executive director.

Besides the one in Delaware, Columbus fire Station 19 in Clintonville, and Mifflin Township each have one. The fourth will be put in service in September, Robinette said, and a location has not yet been chosen.

A 650-pound woman required two medic crews recently, recalled Delaware EMS training coordinator Glen Keating. A large tarp with handles was used to lift her.

“The challenge we still faced was getting her through the front door” of her house, he said.

The new systems also preserve the dignity of patients, said Assistant Chief Eric Burgess of Delaware EMS. “You can’t imagine what that is like to have 10 grown men carry you out of the house.”

Doctors who treat obese people welcome the new vehicles.

“I think it’s really important,” said Dr. Patricia Choban, the medical director of Mount Carmel West hospital’s bariatric center. “Carrying heavier, wider people is much more of a challenge. Unfortunately, they get in car wrecks and have heart attacks like everybody else.”


©2014 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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