News / Calgary

Alberta ambulances to be equipped with power lift stretchers

Over an 18-month trial period, no EMS workers using the electronic lift reported injuries while 84 injuries were reported by the EMS workers without one

Calgary EMS workers simulate how the power stretcher and lift systems carry patients in and out of an ambulance.

Jennifer Friesen / for Metro Calgary

Calgary EMS workers simulate how the power stretcher and lift systems carry patients in and out of an ambulance.

Doran Midyette said it starts with a “just a small little twinge” in your back – but it only gets worse.

He’s been a front-line Alberta paramedic for 27 years, but has sustained several back injuries on the job that left him in constant pain and facing months of physical therapy.

“Imagine how your back would feel after lifting a patient as many as 30 times every day,” he said. “If I’m being honest, there were days where I wondered if I could even continue doing this job.”

But Midyette breathed a sigh of relief on Thursday as he joined Alberta Health Services (AHS) in announcing that more than 350 ambulances in the province will be equipped with power stretcher and lift systems to help reduce injuries to paramedics.

The act of lifting patients in and out of ambulances is the “leading cause of debilitating injuries to EMS professionals,” according to Darren Sandbeck, chief paramedic with AHS.

Using battery-powered hydraulics, the new stretchers can lift up to 317 kilograms into and out of an ambulance from the push of a button.

“We still do nearly 30 lifts a day,” said Midyette. “But instead of us lifting sometimes thousands of pounds, the power stretcher behind me does all the work for us.”

The electronic lifts were installed in eight Calgary and Edmonton-based ambulances in 2015, and not a single lift-related injury was reported by the staff using them. However, during the same 18-month trial period, 84 injuries were reported by EMS workers who didn’t have the lifts.

“This system works,” said Sandbeck. “And we owe it to our employees to provide them the best tools possible to support the important work that they do.”

All of the new power lifts are expected to be installed by March 31, 2018, funded by a $20 million investment from the Government of Alberta.

Oneil Carlier, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, said the one-time investment is coming from the existing budget and that the lifts will be in place in both major cities and rural communities.

“With this new system in play now, I can see the younger paramedics coming in and finishing off their careers with no back injuries at all,” said Midyette. “This really is a game changer.”

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