Obese Americans get super-size ambulances

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The Independent US

Las Vegas's local authority has become the latest in the US to put into service a new super-size ambulance, specially equipped to handle massively overweight and morbidly obese patients.

The $250,000 (£144,000) vehicle, developed by the American Medical Response group, looks like a standard ambulance. But it is wider, with a specially large wheeled stretcher trolley. The vehicle, called a Bariatric Unit, also has a special ramp and a winch that can handle loads of 1,600lb (114 stone), and be operated by just one crew member.

The Bariatric Unit was produced in 2003, and with obesity rising across America, it is suddenly gaining popularity. In the past six months, AMR has dealt with 75 calls involving patients who weighed at least 600lb, a spokesman said.

Medical experts say ordinary ambulances cannot safely cope with such emergencies. Moving people of this size poses dangers not only for patients, but for ambulance staff and paramedics. Last month the new ambulance entered service in Louisville, Kentucky - sixth among US states in the national obesity league. More than 25 per cent of Kentucky's adult population is considered obese.

At the time officials said it would be used for doctor's appointments and scheduled visits. But it is also now on standby for emergency calls.

The new trolley can carry patients of up to 71 12 stone. But even it would have been pressed to cope with Jon Brower Minnoch of Bainbridge, Washington State, the heaviest human ever, according to the Guinness World of Records.

Mr Minnoch's weight is estimated to have reached 100 stone at one point. He died in September 1983 weighing57 stone.