Bariatric Ambulance

By Obesity Expert Leonard Smeltmann

Many emergency service providers are finding an increased need for a bariatric ambulance. As obesity increases amongst the population across the world, more sufferers of obesity need emergency medical attention than ever before.

Bariatric ambulances are specially equipped and significantly more expensive than normal ambulances. They are much larger and often located centrally in large population centers, rather than being housed with other ambulance fleets in dispersed locations.

Some bariatric ambulances are actually classified as heavy vehicles and require a specialised license to drive. Acquiring the license is normally part of bariatric patient training provided by the hospital or health provider, in addition to dealing with the heavily specialised equipment used in bariatric ambulances.

Bariatric ambulance equipment

Bariatric ambulances are equipped with specialised equipment so they can perform their duties properly. This means they have hydraulic patient lifts or access ramps, a larger interior, a cot loading system and inbuilt power supplies and hydraulics.

Unlike normal ambulances, bariatric ambulances make it safe, reliable and dignified to transport bariatric patients properly. Because of the significant weight of bariatric patients, normal trolley / stretcher systems are unsafe for paramedics to use. This is for two reasons: firstly, the equipment in normal ambulances is not optimised for bariatric patients, and secondly it is unsafe for both the patient and the paramedics to try and assist a bariatric patient using standard equipment.

For example, a normal stretcher may have a load tolerance of significantly less than the body weight of morbidly obese patients. When dealing with lifting and moving bariatric patients, it is unreasonable to expect 2 paramedics to lift both a stretcher and someone weighing several hundred pounds. If the stretcher was to break or buckle, not only could the patient’s injuries be aggravated but the paramedics themselves could be hurt.

Modern bariatric ambulances remove most of the ‘grunt work’ from treating bariatric patients. They use clever technology like inflating stretchers and hydraulics to make securing, stabilising and transporting bariatric patients far more easy and streamlined.

As the worldwide epidemic of obesity continues, more and more health services will need to supplement their normal ambulance fleet with bariatric ambulances and bariatrically trained specialists. With an estimated rise in bariatric emergency calls of 40% over the next three years, administrators and fleet managers need to start looking ahead to a demographic trend that shows no signs of slowing down.

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