Stair chairs were a great innovation for moving certain types of patients in certain environments, and putting tracks on them was even better. The latest enhancement to the device—motorizing those tracks—promises even more benefits for providers and their aching backs, as well as an improved bottom line for EMS organizations.
New Jersey’s Alert Ambulance Service is supplementing its Ferno EZ Glide stair chairs with that feature, called PowerTraxx.
The result is “so easy to use, I’ve taken somebody up a flight of stairs with one hand,” says the service’s president, Robert Davis. “Just by putting slight pressure down, you can glide them up or down the stairs. Obviously you’ll use two people in the field, with somebody at the foot, but you could do it with one hand and no second person.”
The tracks are powered by a 28-volt lithium ion battery good for 20 flights on a charge. It provides a ride that’s safer for providers and smoother for patients. It’s also a force multiplier; Alert had one smaller female EMT report she could be at the head of the chair for the first time in her EMS career. And even for larger providers, the PowerTraxx is an anxiolytic.
“We do a lot of interfacility transports and hospital discharges, so we go up more often than down,” says Davis. “Before, crews would have a lot of anxiety: ‘Are the steps narrow? How many flights?’ And depending on how they matched up in size with their partner, it could cause some anxiety. Now you tell them ‘It’s a 250-lb. patient with two flights of stairs,’ and they’re like, ‘OK!’ It’s not an issue.”
Alert also sees reduced risk of back and shoulder injuries, each of which can cost well into five figures in lost time and other expenses. This kind of upgrade now may save bigger bucks later.
“It’s just like converting to power stretchers: It’s a long-term investment,” says Davis. “If you can reduce injuries and time lost, you’ll have a more satisfied staff and reduce your costs too.”