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February 24, 2010

New technology saving Calif. paramedics' backs

BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. — Butte County's First Responder paramedics are always busy saving people's lives. But years of repetitive lifting of patients onto manual gurneys has led to a number of employee injuries.

First Responder Battalion Chief Robin Sinclear explained, "Most of all, we have high incidents of back injuries in this industry from lifting patients. There's a lot of load placed on our backs."

But a new tool is expected to change that. First Responder just purchased two new electronic gurneys that are expected to do a large load of the lifting. The battery operated gurneys have already reduced worker's compensation claims in several other North State counties by about 10%.

One of the best features about the electronic gurneys are their ability to lift patients that weigh up to 700 pounds. The previous manual gurneys are only able to lift patients that weigh less than 400 pounds.

"The use of the hydrolic lift system and the gurney is just immeasurable how great that's going to be for our people," said Synclear.

But workers are not the only ones who will benefit from these gurneys. Sinclear explained, "It also has some comfort features for our patients that our previous gurneys didn't have.

We're able to lift the patient's knees to lift pressure off the patient's back, and any patient that has hip pain or lower back pain that we always had to shove pillows under their knees, now it has a knee lift."

Butte County's First Responder workers transport about 24,000 patients a year. Most of their gurneys are still manual and will not be replaced with the electronic gurneys until needed. Each one costs $12,000.

Republished with permission of