Obesity Threatens Emergency Services: Report

In his article, Berger cites a survey of 1,356 members of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians that found that nearly one in two medics sustained a back injury while performing EMS duties. Most blamed their injuries on lifting extremely heavy patients.

The strains to the system are also financial. Hospitals have to invest in extra wide beds, wheel chairs, patient lifting devices and extra staff to help lift and transport patients. A special bariatric lifting device, called the Titan X, costs about $18,000. According to the press release, "global sales in bariatric stretchers and lift systems are expected to soar in the next five years."

"I'm not certain this is creating a crisis yet, but it is something we need to plan for and address with newer equipment," said Dr. Charles Emerman at the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.

Goldman suggests that hospitals and EDs will need to have more gurney and CT capability for obese patients, new equipment and more staff -- all of which requires capital.

"Who will pay for this?" he asked. "Hospitals may need a new revenue source."

Another doctor, who requested to remain unnamed, urges individual responsibility.

"The American public must take more personal responsibility in taking care of their health," he said. "Our society needs a cultural shift where employers provide time to take care of oneself and one's family.

"Food portions in restaurants and other venues need to be halved. If we do not do these things, our children and their children will pay a heavy price."

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