Obesity in the hospitals
Heavy Patients Put Strain on Hospitals
ST. LOUIS, Missouri (AP) Last year, patient care director Colleen Becker [at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis] decided to check the numbers. She looked at a daily hospital census -- about one-third of the 900 patients weighed 350 pounds or more.
Startled, Becker checked another date, then another. The numbers were consistent. On some days, half the patients were obese. Some weighed 500 pounds or more.
ATF Healthcare ... last week called for new laws forcing hospitals to buy equipment such as portable hoists to prevent worker injuries.
A union-commissioned survey of more than 900 nurses and X-ray technicians found the majority have chronic pain or have suffered injuries from lifting and moving patients.
At Barnes-Jewish, lift machines help some patients get in and out of bed. Chairs have been made stronger and wider. Lights have been added at floor level because the bodies of extremely obese people can cast a shadow that makes it hard to see the floor.
The hospital is replacing many of its beds -- built to handle people weighing up to 350 pounds -- with beds for 500-pound patients.
"Three-hundred-fifty pounds is nowhere near what we need for beds now," said Art Kidrow, a nurse manager at Barnes-Jewish. "We've had some 650-pounders up here."
Some wings of Barnes-Jewish are replacing 36-inch-wide doorways with those that are 48 or 52 inches wide. The bathrooms are being fitted with floor-mounted commodes that can't be pulled out of the wall.
Gowns are bigger. Wheelchairs are wider. Even hospital-issued slippers come in extra-large sizes because the standard-issued footies were cutting off circulation for some patients.
Issues extend beyond the patient's room. Operating tables have been widened because the girth of some patients was lapping over the table, in some cases all the way to the floor, Becker said. CT scan machines weren't wide enough. Syringes with the longest available needles -- 4 1/2 inches -- couldn't penetrate the fat.
"It's been a trend probably for the last four or five years ... Hospitals are continuing to see an increase in obese patients, and it affects every department. You have to think of the patient from head to toe, everything they do in the hospital until they walk out the door or they die."
In fact, Barnes-Jewish is striving to make even the end more dignified. Becker said the law requires a leak-proof body bag. Some patients were so large they wouldn't fit in them. The hospital is working with a vendor to develop a wider bag.
Technorati Tags: Obesity, Health