Paramedics say heavier patients call for sturdier gurneys

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - As paramedics respond to more emergency calls from overweight patients, some emergency units are being forced to buy heavy-duty gurneys.
"Every area has been faced with handling the very obese patients," said Harold Cooper, a district director for the Ohio Association of Emergency Medical Services. "Most are not set up for it. A lot of the equipment is not designed to sustain that kind of weight."
Circleville recently bought gurneys that support up to 650 pounds for two of its three emergency crews. Each one cost $2,750.
"We thought it was well worth the money to save some backs and be able to handle the heavier patients," Circleville EMS Chief Kevin Driesbach said.
Driesbach said his department frequently handles patients weighing 350 to 400 pounds. Before the new stretchers arrived, ambulance workers routinely had to call the fire department to help lift such patients.
Wilmington-based Ferno-Washington added the sturdier stretchers to its product line in 2002. The newer model has outsold the older version, which has a capacity of 500 pounds, product manager Wanda Barr said.
More than 38 million American adults -- about one in five -- met the definition of obese in 2000, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)