Across the U.S., patients are getting bigger, and posing an increased risk of injury to the EMTs and paramedics who lift and carry them. Smart services have responded by taking measures to protect their personnel, and in Boston that’s included outfitting a special bariatric ambulance with an automated lift from California-based Mac’s Lift Gate.
With the lift, providers need no longer hoist their largest patients into ambulances manually. They’re instead positioned on a lift platform and raised hydraulically at a simple touch.
“One of the most common long-term injuries we were losing members to was back injuries,” says Tony O’Brien, a leader with the union that represents Boston’s personnel, the EMS Division of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association. “We tried a couple of different ways of easing the loads we lift and carry, and from a union standpoint, this thing is far beyond. It’s the best thing we’ve found for our members to prevent back injuries.”
The regular Mac’s Ambulance Lift can raise and lower up to 750 lbs. and will accommodate most isolettes and cots. For more power, Mac’s offers a Bariatric Lift that can elevate up to 1,300 lbs. Both stow under the bumper and are easily pulled out and unfolded for use. The lifts fit Type I (bariatric) and Type III (cot and isolette) ambulances and are designed for all bariatric cots.
Boston EMS rolled out its lift in January, and while no one’s yet examined back injury rates before and after, those charged with protecting worker safety think it’s a benefit.
“We don’t have actual numbers, but it seems like kind of a no-brainer,” says O’Brien, also an EMT with the Special Operations Division, which handles Boston’s bariatric transports.
“I mean, you can tweak your back lifting a 100-pound person if you don’t do things right. But the real risk is with the larger ones, and this thing has to have taken that away. Obviously, every time you’re not lifting that kind of weight, you’re preventing a possible injury. So from the members’ point of view, it’s an invaluable piece of equipment.”