Orange County Fire Rescue upgrades equipment to help with obese patients

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Orange County Fire Rescue has a new way of helping obese patients. Emergency workers said they're treating more and more people whose weight can put the first responders at risk.

"We want to make sure that we give that patient 110 percent of our services," said Juan Atan with Orange County Fire Rescue.

But that can be difficult when someone weighs 600-700 pounds.

The department has rolled out an ambulance to help obese patients.

"This unit is being used anytime we have a patient of a greater amount than 400 pounds," said Atan.

The department spent $23,000 to upgrade one of their vehicles. It has a hydraulic lift, so that first responders don't have to lift the patients themselves.

A new stretcher can hold up to 1,100 pounds and is also 10 inches wider than standard stretchers.

Emergency medical technicians who spoke with Channel 9's Deneige Broom said they have had to load patients who weigh close to 800 pounds into an ambulance without a lift. They said that every time they have to deal with an obese patient they risk injuring themselves.

"We're trying to lower the back injuries, which is the No.1 causes for fire and emergency personnel," said Atan.

Atan said that he has been with the department for 20 years and he is seeing more obese patients now than ever.

"I think it also gives our patients a little bit of extra dignity instead of having to have a squadron of firefighters carrying them out of the house in front of all the neighbors," said John Mulhall of Orange County Fire Rescue.

While they may only need it a few dozen times a year but EMTs said it's a lifesaver for them and their patients.

Since it went into service at the end of March, the unit has been used once. EMTs said it was a success.