BOSTON (Reuters Life!) - Boston emergency services debuted a specialized ambulance designed to carry obese patients on Tuesday, and the retrofitted vehicle was promptly needed on two calls, authorities said.
The ambulance is equipped with a special stretcher that can hold 850 pounds and a hydraulic lift with a 1,000 pound capacity, said Captain Jose Archila of Boston's Emergency Medical Services fleet.
The ambulance is likely to be needed two to four times a week, he said.
"We have seen a huge increase in the last six months," said Archila about the number of calls by obese patients.
Tuesday's two runs were not likely to be the norm, he explained, adding the ambulance was designed for the safety of patients and the crews helping them.
About one third of adults in the United States are obese, including 33.3 percent of men and 35.3 percent of women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, citing 2005-2006 figures.
Back injuries among crews are common due to strain from lifting extremely heavy patients, he said. The ambulance makes the patients more comfortable as well.
In appearance, the ambulance looks like any other. The hydraulic lift is folded and stowed underneath the bed, and a gas tank was repositioned to accommodate it, Archila said.