Extra-large ambulance handling obese patients in Las Vegas | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Extra-large ambulance handling obese patients in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS (AP) – An ambulance company has responded to oversize needs in southern Nevada by providing an ambulance equipped to handle patients weighing 500 pounds or more.

“We’re getting more and more requests to transport larger patients every day,” said Roy Carroll, operations manager at American Medical Response, one of two companies with Clark County Fire Department contracts to provide medical transport in and around Las Vegas.

Crews have called 75 times in the last six months for additional manpower to handle morbidly obese patients, said Chris Piper, a western regional spokesman for Greenwood, Colo.-based AMR. He said the largest patients weighed more than 500 pounds.

Carroll, in Las Vegas, called handling large patients difficult and unsafe for patients, paramedics and emergency medical technicians.

“Not only does this person not fit, there’s a chance he or she could fall,” Carroll said. “Our job is to get that patient to where they need to be safely and in a dignified manner. Traditional ambulances can’t do that.”

The company recently put into service a $250,000 bariatric ambulance, which looks like its other 80 ambulances, but is extra-wide and has a larger gurney, a winch and ramps capable of loading up to 1,600 pounds.

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Clark County spokesman Bob Leinbach called the need for the larger ambulances obvious.

“If you don’t think it’s needed, all you have to do is look around,” Leinbach said. “Americans are heavier.”

The county’s other ambulance provider is awaiting delivery of a bariatric ambulance and recently bought four electric gurneys capable of handling patients weighing up to 750 pounds, said Matthew Cox, a spokesman for MedicWest Ambulance.

“There’s less stress on the paramedics’ backs and it’s a better stabilizer for the patient,” Cox said.

Of Nevada’s 1.7 million adult residents in 2004, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state Health Division estimated that 21 percent, or about 357,000, were obese.