Automated stretchers save EMTs’ backs

Lisa Depies
Mandy Morse, of the Geneseo Ambulance Service, uses one hand to help load a stretcher into an ambulance. New automated stretchers and accompanying lift-kits help reduce the need for EMTs to physically lift patients in and out of ambulances.

Assisting sick or injured patients can leave an EMT injured themselves.

Lifting and loading patients on stretchers takes a toll on an EMT’s back, and, with obesity numbers on the rise in America, patients themselves are getting heavier.

In the EMT world, back problems are an issue, said Rick Mills of the Geneseo Ambulance Service.

However, Geneseo EMTs are looking to eradicate that problem with the purchase of motorized stretcher cots.

With the push of a button, the new stretchers can raise and lower themselves. A special lifting kit in the department’s two ambulances attaches to the new stretchers and helps load them into the vehicles.

Manufactured by the Stryker company, the new automated stretchers have made it easier for smaller EMTs to help load and unload patients.

“It really saves our back,” said Kay Pamler of the Geneseo Ambulance Service.

The new automated equipment can lift up to 870 pounds.

“It’s also a blessing for shorter people,” said fellow ambulance service member Catie Davis, explaining it was difficult to manually lift a stretcher to the correct height to place it in an ambulance.

The Geneseo Ambulance Service has owned stretchers which automatically rise and lower on their own for a few years, but they recently acquired the interior ambulance lift-kit mechanisms which allows the stretches to be mechanically loaded into the ambulance.

A new ambulance purchased in 2016 had the internal lift-kit already installed. The Geneseo Ambulance Service’s 2012 ambulance had to be retrofitted to include the lift-kit.

The stretchers operate on a battery pack, similar to that found in power tools. It is designed to re-charge every time the stretcher is fully loaded in the ambulance.

Though the stretcher and lift-kit are automated, the device still can be used manually, said Mills.

“You can override the system and do everything by hand, if you need to,” he explained.

The system is easy for new EMTs to learn, said Geneseo Ambulance Service member Mandy Morse. The stretcher moves up and down with the press of a simple “+” or “-” button.

While patients themselves may be too sick or distressed to notice the new automatic stretchers, Mills said they have had a few “big eyes” as patients are loaded into the ambulance via an automated system.

The new stretchers also feature a thicker, contoured mattress designed to improve patient comfort.

Only a handful of ambulance services in the area also have automated stretchers and lift-kits, and Geneseo EMTs said they’re thankful donations from the local community helped supplement the purchase of their equipment.

The Geneseo Ambulance Service currently is accepting new volunteers. For more information, phone 944-5544.