by Kyle Swenson
This kind of news story is always amusing at first, then kind of unsettling . . .
Apparently, according to the Columbus Dispatch, some residents in that city are so overweight they’re too much for paramedics to handle, literally. The Columbus Division of Fire has armed up over the last couple of years with stretchers that can haul around patients who weight up to 650 pounds — only that’s not good enough. No, it appears the city is now considering purchasing high-dollar stretchers that can support even heavier loads, up to 1,000 pounds. Why? Well, according to the Dispatch, about twice a month paramedics have to move patients who are too heavy for the existing equipment, meaning twice a month eight to ten city employees are filing new health insurance claims for back injuries.
The city currently has 18 stretchers that can handle up to 650 pounds. The current plan is to buy an additional 34 so each unit is outfitted with one. They cost around $5,000 a pop.
But when a call comes in that tops the scale, EMS units are now forced to improvise. According to the paper, they roll the person onto a tarp and eight to ten paramedics walk the individual to the ambulance. Some within the department are suggesting the city purchase the sturdier stretchers to avoid such situations. The 1,000 pound cots cost around $10,000 and come complete with a hydraulics system. But the fancy equipment also requires ambulances to be retrofitted, which costs an additional $6,000.
With budget shrinkage at an all time high, the tricked-out stretchers are not a popular option with lawmakers. State Sen. Kevin Coughlin told the Dispatch: "Money is very tight in the state government right now, but I could look at what's possible, seeing if there's any money that can be reallocated for that purpose.”
However, if the state doesn’t lend a helping hand, the city seems like it might pull the trigger itself.
“We would strongly consider obtaining these cots, despite the cost," George Speaks, deputy director of the Department of Public Safety, told the Dispatch. "Obesity is detrimental not only to the individual but society in general. Our community may have to pick up the additional cost."