ARLINGTON – The techniques used by paramedics and firefighters to transport patients at the scenes of accidents and emergencies save lives, but all that lifting can also wreak havoc on their backs.
Arlington Fire Department last month retrofitted three medic units and an aid car with battery-powered hydraulic patient lifting and lowering systems that will improve patient transfer, while reducing back strain.
“These help our back tremendously, and we can carry heavier loads,” firefighter EMT Nich Sacha said. “Almost every agency in the county has them now.”
The EMS Power Lift Cots came from a $124,615 FEMA grant. The city provided 5 percent in matching funds.
The gurneys lock into a track system in the back of a unit, then can be raised and lowered, and loaded and unloaded at the press of a button, Sacha said as he and co-worker Gregg Haddick demonstrated the unit for city leaders.
Paramedics like that the new units can go much lower, side rails come down a little more, an IV pole is built into the unit so bags don’t have to rest on patients, monitors can be attached, and an the oxygen tank is affixed to the head of the gurney where it should be, Sacha said.
Sacha said the only downside is because they weigh so much, the cots are hard to maneuver up stairs.
“We usually have to leave it down at ground level on calls,” he said, then use other devices to transfer patients to the waiting gurney.