Major back strains and blown out knees are just two examples of injuries that firefighters and paramedics suffer while trying to lift morbidly obese patients onto a cot and then into an ambulance.
“Six weeks ago, a patient required six people (firefighters) to get them out of the house, one of the firefighters required knee surgery after, and one had a rotor cuff (injury)” said Donald Bennett, Fairfield Fire Chief.
Bennett and Fairfield Twp. Fire Chief Tim Thomas are equally concerned about assisting bariatric patients and the health of their firefighters.
“There are some patients out there who are 400-plus pounds, and when you’re attempting to lift them and move them, usually positions that aren’t exactly friendly, where you’re not in the best lifting positions, those things can be very difficult,” Thomas said.
Both fire departments do not have a special bariatric power cot but desperately want one. Stryker, the company that manufactures power cots, said its Power-PRO TL features “a battery-powered hydraulic lift to raise and lower patients with the touch of a button and not your back.”
While local fire departments would like to have one, the price tag is an issue. Officials said it costs nearly four times as much as a regular cot.
“We have interest and will look at some grants to help offset the cost,” Thomas said. “It’s (cost of the cots) about $40,000 each, and we have three EMS units I’d like to equip so that’s about $120,000. Question is: will we find grant funding to do it all at once or look at budgeting it and do it one at a time?”
Hamilton Fire EMS Coordinator Jennifer Mason said they don’t use a power cot due to cost and can’t justify the expense right now.
Middletown Deputy Fire Chief Brent Dominy said their department has four power cots that use an 18-volt battery, which are not the same as the Stryker Power PRO TLs and are a lot less expensive.
In the meantime, Fairfield’s fire department has bought Stryker’s Stair-PRO chair. It allows firefighters to transport patients up or down several flights of stairs.
“During training we put guys 250 to 300 pounds and literally walked down because of the braking mechanisms in theses tracks,” Bennett said.
Once on the ground, fire officials said the issue remains of how to safely lift bariatric patients onto a cot and into an ambulance.
The Cincinnati Fire Department was awarded a grant to purchase two Power-Pro/Pro Lift systems for two of its medical units.
A “very wise investment,” Cincinnati Fire Capt. Thomas Thomas said of the purchase.
According to a survey by the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati’s Community Health Status, 62 percent of adults in Greater Cincinnati are overweight.
Cincinnati firefighters have been using the power cots for nearly four weeks. Emails from some staffers stated how the cots “made details of the medic unit more tolerable” and firefighters were “not fatigued,” Capt. Thomas said.
Cincinnati fire officials said they see bariatric patients who weigh around 500 pounds at least twice a week. Capt. Thomas said his goal is to install power cots in all 18 city ambulances, and he encouraged fire departments in Butler County to purchase one, too.
“Absolutely get a power cot,” Capt. Thomas said. “Very good step forward for firefighters, for medics and the public.”
Butler County fire officials say they plan to continue studying the power cots and will likely apply for grants to help pay for one. Fire departments could also pool resources and share a power cot.
“A lot of departments, ourselves included, have limited budgets,” said Chief Thomas of Fairfield Twp. “If we can find a way that we can share a piece of equipment like that… The challenge is it needs to be installed in a vehicle; the vehicle would need to be shared.
“It’s not out of the realm of possibility,” he said. “It’s something we have to discuss at the chief meetings to try to resolve a plan and discuss how we can afford something like that and make sure it’s available to all departments.”