Moving Sale 1729 Pinehurst Nov2016

  Flossmoor firefighter/paramedic Tom Slayton
  demonstrates the Stryker lift unit. That greenish
  light shows where the arm on the device is located.

  (Photo by Tom Houlihan/H-F Chronicle)


Emergency response can be backbreaking work.

Until recently, there was only one way to move a patient, on a cot, into an ambulance — the two-man lift. For generations of firefighters and paramedics, back problems were often the cost of regularly hoisting adult patients into emergency vehicles.

“The incidence of back injuries was very high,” said Keith Damm, Flossmoor’s assistant fire chief.

Since switching to a hydraulic system — the Stryker Power-Load — that lifts cots and patients into the ambulance, Flossmoor has seen a dramatic reduction in back injuries, Damm said.

“We haven’t had any back injuries from lifting patients since we went to this system,” he said.

Tom Slayton, a Flossmoor firefighter/paramedic said the Stryker lift is a vast improvement over manually lifting patients into an ambulance.

“It’s wonderful,” he said. “It makes a huge difference on your back.”

Flossmoor’s fire department in December received a grant that will offset some of the cost of the Stryker system. Damm applied for the grant from the Intergovernmental Risk Management Agency (IRMA) about a year ago. Flossmoor is a member of IRMA’s risk management pool.

IRMA encourages its members to adopt the Power-Load technology, Damm said.

“Reducing back injuries saves IRMA money in workers compensation claims,” he said. “It’s good for them and good for us.”

IRMA approved a $13,353 grant for the Stryker system in a Flossmoor ambulance that went into service last year. That’s about one-third the cost of the automated lift.

The technology is expensive, Damm said, and some emergency agencies balk at the system because of the cost.

“But it’s money well spent,” he said. “Workman compensation claims can be very expensive. Firefighters can miss work. There can be surgery and rehab, as well as lots of diagnostic work.”

Receiving the grant money means that Flossmoor will be able to purchase more equipment for its ambulances, he said.

Two of Flossmoor’s  ambulances — one bought in 2016, the other purchased in 2011 — are equipped with the Stryker system.

The Power-Load uses a battery-powered hydraulic arm that lifts the cot and patient into the ambulance. Paramedics must wheel the cot to the back of the ambulance so that it can be attached to the arm. Both the cot and arm can handle a weight of up to 700 pounds.

Last year, the Flossmoor Fire Department had a total of 1,483 ambulance calls, or about four on each day. Before the new technology, all those calls represented potential back problems, Damm said.

“It’s good to think that young firefighters and paramedics will be able to go through their entire careers without back problems,” he said. “That’s a plus for all of us.”

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