Transport can be weighty issue

Ambulance Tasmania deputy manager Alistair Shephard demonstrating inflation equipment used to lift obese patients.

Ambulance Tasmania deputy manager Alistair Shephard demonstrating inflation equipment used to lift obese patients.

PARAMEDICS are well equipped to care for bariatric patients with a specialised ambulance and equipment on-call full-time.

In 2011, Ambulance Tasmania bought three Special Operations Vehicles to service the North, South and North-West, which predominantly extricate and transport bariatric patients.

Bariatric is derived from the Greek word Barros, meaning large or heavy.

‘‘The vehicles were purpose-designed and built in New South Wales, the design of the stretcher and associated equipment enables staff to manoeuvre and extricate patients without the need for any manual lifting of the patient,’’ Northern Emergency and Medical Services duty manager Alistair Shephard said.

‘‘Obesity is becoming more common unfortunately, it is a worldwide epidemic, the general population individually has become larger.

‘‘It does create some significant problems for ambulance services everywhere in that we are faced with patients who exceed the capabilities of our standard equipment.

‘‘It also puts the paramedics who attend the scene at greater risk of personal injury due to the fact there are significant issues and complications associated with the manual handling of the patient.’’

Before 2011, paramedics relied on alternative methods and assistance from Tasmania Fire Service and Tasmania Police personnel.

Mr Shephard said the vehicle in Launceston was recently used to move a 246-kilogram non-ambulant patient from inside a residence to the vehicle parked on the street, about 40 metres away.

He said the three bariatric ambulances were deployed an average 10 times a month, a figure which has remained stable.

‘‘It can be quite difficult and challenging because you’ve got a lot of physical limitations ... just getting someone out of their bed is quite a significant exercise and it does require an additional number of personnel,’’ he said.

‘‘Other specialised equipment such as the hover jack and mat [inflatable devices] allow us to move patients of greater than 140 kilograms upwards without any manual lifting at all.’’

Mr Shephard said there was a selected group of trained bariatric specialist paramedics that were rotated and aligned with the service’s normal crews, with at least one on duty at all times.

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