In the middle of a medical emergency, the amount of time it takes for a patient to be transported to the hospital can be a matter of life and death. With the help of an emergency medical helicopter, a patient has a 33 percent greater chance of surviving than they would if a ground ambulance transported them. However, some patients are simply too large to fly—just about 5,000 each year, according to NBC News.
“Increasingly, America’s growing girth is grounding patients who need emergency help by air,” according to the report. “An estimated 5,000 super-sized patients a year — or about 1 percent of more than 500,000 medical air flights annually in the U.S. — are denied transport because they exceed weight and size limits or because they can’t fit through the aircraft doors.”
It continues, “Experts say the nation’s plus-size proportions — at least two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese — are now forcing emergency medical providers to bolster their fleets, buying bigger helicopters and fixed-wing planes, or risk leaving critically ill and injured clients behind.”
“It’s an issue for sure,” said Craig Yale, vice president of corporate development for Air Methods, one of the nation’s biggest air medical transport providers, to NBC News. “We can get to a scene and find that the patient is too heavy to be able to go.”
According to the report: “Size limits for patients can vary widely depending on the medical transport operators, the types of aircraft, even the day’s weather. At Airlift Northwest near Seattle, crews start to worry about any patient who is heavier than 250 pounds and wider than 26 inches across, said Brenda Nelson, the firm’s chief flight nurse.”
“But other transport firms routinely handle patients who weigh 350 or 400 pounds, or more. At the Duke University Health System, officials with the Life Flight program recently bought two new EC-145 helicopters at a price of between $8 million and $10 million, partly so they could handle patients up to 650 pounds.”
Source: NBC News