New ambulances help obese patients 10:39 AM EST on Tuesday, February 21, 2006 http://www.whas11.com/news/local/stories/WHAS11_LOCAL_Ambulances.4bc859de.html LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Normal stretchers that you'd find in an ambulance can hold a patient up to 500 pounds. This one can hold someone up to 1,600 pounds. If a 400-pound man had an emergency, EMS crews say it could take up to an hour to lift and load his frame into an ambulance. With a heavy-duty stretcher, ramp system and winch, that process takes a matter of minutes. The modified vehicle is called a bariatric ambulance, developed in response to our area's climbing obesity rates. "We generally see at least once or twice a week a patient that's extremely hard to transport because of their weight," says Sherman Hockenbury of Yellow Ambulance. In the past, with a smaller stretcher, it can take dozens of extra hands depending on the patient's weight. And even then, there have been problems. "There's been some times when we haven't been able to put them on the stretcher and had to use stuff like that so the patient's dignity comes into play here," Hockenbury says. Dignity, and speed of treatment. This is the Louisville Metro area's first bariatric ambulance and it will also serve people in southern Indiana. The bariatric ambulance will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It can get to an emergency scene with just 30 minutes notice. The special ramp system and modified stretcher fit into a normal-sized ambulance and come with an added cost of $15,000.