Federal grant will allow area ambulance crews access to gear to handle obese patients

LACONIA — The city has been chosen as one of 10 municipalities in the state where advanced equipment to enable emergency medical personnel to handle obese (bariatric) patients will be kept.

Bill Wood of the Division of Fire Standards and Training and Emergency Medical Services at the N.H. Department of Safety, said that the equipment is being purchased with a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and will be housed at one location in each of the 10 counties.

The City Council this week accepted a grant of $25,400 awarded by the Bariatric Grant Program, funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, for the purchase of a bariatric loading device, stretcher and lift, which will be stored at the Central Fire Station. The equipment will be for the use of all first responders in Belknap County and the Lakes Region as necessary. Fire Chief Ken Erickson said that the department was chosen because it is staffed and operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A department needing the equipment would be responsible for collecting and returning it with no cost to the city. "We would simply be the storage facility," he said.

Erickson said that the department was contemplating the acquisition of similar equipment with funding from LRGHealthcare, but instead purchased a hydraulic lift for the primary ambulance. He said that equipment will supplement the department's inventory of tools for dealing with obese individuals.

According to data compiled by the state's Trauma and Emergency Medical Information System (TEMSIS), the Fire Department transported 162 patients weighing between 400 and 1,100 pounds between 2010 and 2013, far and away the most reported in the state. Derry transported 82, Manchester 67, Concord 56, Lebanon 47, Rochester 44 and Dover 43. Erickson said that the figures may reflect differences in the collection, recording and reporting of information among departments as well as the numbers of obese patients in various communities.

The other municipalities in the Bariatric Grant Program are Conway in Carroll County,Gorham in Coos County, Keene in Cheshire County, Lebanon in Grafton County, Peterborough in Hillsborough County, Concord in Merrimack County, Hampton in Rockingham County, Dover in Strafford County and Newport in Sullivan County.

Wood said that in addition to the bariatric equipment there was sufficient funding to retrofit three ambulances in each county to accept and accommodate the bariatric stretchers.