Hospitals invest in equipment for growing obese patient population

Roughly one-third of Americans are obese, and as the numbers continue to rise, hospitals around the country invest in equipment to accommodate more plus-sized patients, according to

Franciscan St. Margaret Health hospital's Midwest Bariatric Institute services Lake County in Indiana, where 36 percent of adults are obese--the 13th most weight-challenged county in the country, according to Kathy O'Donnell, a nurse and manager at the Institute. The hospital now has extended blood pressure cuffs, wider hospital slippers, sturdier waiting room chairs, wider wheelchairs, floor-mounted toilet bowls and stronger operating room tables and MRI units to help support larger patients, according to the article.

"As we revamp all of our physicians' offices and same-day surgery center, we're designing it around bigger weight limits, because we know that the population now is much larger than it was 25 years ago," O'Donnell told "Staff can identify what the weight limit is on any piece of equipment, so you can ensure patient safety. And patients won't know. It's done in a process that only staff can recognize what that is. You just always want to keep patient safety at the forefront of your mind." 

However, these sturdier items, such as wider wheelchairs that can hold up to 750 pounds, can cost up to twice the standard item, said Curtis May, director of supply chain for Methodist Hospitals.

But ultimately, it's important to foster a safe and respectful environment for overweight patients so they don't avoid or skip appointments out of fear of being weighed or humiliated by equipment that can't accommodate them, O'Donnell said.

In Florida, hospitals try to tackle the issue of obesity early. The weight management program at Miami Children's Hospital sees almost 90 patients a month, offering a full medical and psychological evaluation to new patients, followed by monthly visits to educate parents and children on healthy eating and exercise habits, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

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