Crackdown on fire crews lifting obese people

A chief fire officer is seeking to limit call-outs to help the morbidly obese because they are injuring firefighters and diverting them from ‘‘real emergencies’’.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) Christchurch Metro Area Commander Dave Stack-house is clamping down on calls from hospitals, rest-homes and morgues to help lift obese people as a result.

In a notice sent to the area’s 200 volunteer and 170 professional firefighters on August 28, Mr Stackhouse said Fenz crews were increasingly being called to assist with non-medical and often non-emergency lifting incidents.

‘‘These calls not only make our crews unavailable to respond to actual emergencies but also result in a high number of injuries to our staff,’’ Mr Stack-house wrote.

In a memorandum of understanding between Fenz and St John, firefighters respond to calls from ambulance staff for help with the lifting or extrication of patients in emergencies.

‘‘The MOU states that lifting assistance shall be confined to emergency transfer of patients going for further medical care.’’

Mr Stackhouse said Fenz crews should not normally be used for. —

Lifting patients for routine transfer from hospital to their homes.

Supplementing inadequate St John crews in non-emergency lifting situations.

Or lifting bariatric patients at hospitals, rest-homes, care facilities or mortuaries.

‘‘There is an expectation that these agencies should have in place procedures and protocols for dealing with this within their own business practices.’’

Mr Stackhouse said such calls were happening with enough to regularly injure firefighters.

There had been at least 14 ‘‘strains and sprains’’ during the past two years caused by the heavy lifting, Mr Stackhouse said, with varying severity and time off work.

‘‘If the person is in urgent need of medical care and they [St John] need assistance, then under the MOU we’ll help them with that, of course.

‘‘But we won’t respond under red alert if it’s not life-threatening.’’

Mr Stackhouse said officers in charge should not respond to the ‘‘commercial’’ patient lifts without approval from the area commander.

‘‘When approval has been prearranged and agreed these events shall not be considered as emergency responses and shall be undertaken as a routine call.’’ 

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