ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Rising obesity rates are forcing paramedics across the country to use specialized equipment to transport overweight patients.
First responders in Dougherty County are the only Paramedics in South Georgia equipped to handle the task and the need is so great, more equipment had to be purchased.
First responders in Dougherty County transport at least one obese person a day.
"We've picked them up when they've weighed over 1,000 pounds," said Hal Pinson, Paramedic Supervisor.
As obesity continues to rise, more patients need emergency medical attention than ever before.
"If they can't get on the gurney and then can't get on the ambulance that's not good," said Dr. Derek Heard, Albany Family Practice.
But the good news is paramedics in Dougherty County are equipped to transport those patients safely and comfortably.
"We are the only ones in south Georgia with a truck like this or a stretcher set up for this," said Pinson.
Unlike other ambulances, a bariatric ambulance is larger and equipped with a heavy duty ramp and hydraulics that help lift the patient onto and off the ambulance with ease.
"Before this we've had to call out another ambulance crew or call out the fire department for lifting assistance," said Pinson.
8 years ago they switched to a power lift stretcher, which can transport someone weighing up to 400 pounds.
"The problem is it is so narrow the patients can't comfortably ride on here," said Pinson.
Then they switched to a bariatric stretcher, much wider and equipped to handle 1,600 pounds.
It's becoming more popular for EMS departments across the country. Paramedics just can't handle the weight, and some are hurting their backs. This equipment makes it more comfortable and safer too.
However, obesity continues to rise, just one stretcher and one truck is not enough, thankfully EMS was just approved to purchase two brand new ambulances which will be equipped with the bariatric equipment.
"Our goal is to have every truck and every stretcher able to accommodates so it will help reduce the back injuries," said Pinson.
The bariatric ambulance stays centrally located at EMS headquarters on Palmyra. But when the new trucks come they will put one on the east and west sides of town.
Next up, they hope to get more bariatric gurneys to add to those ambulances.