Last weekend, the Houston newspaper ran a story about how local health care providers are struggling to cope with heavier patients. It praised them for investing in plus-size furniture, heavy-duty stretchers and toilets that can support extra weight. There was just one problem with the story. It covered everything but the increased stress the obese place on physical therapists.
After reading the story, I knew delivery rooms could accommodate larger mothers but not whether the physical therapy department had bariatric equipment. Probably not. For some reason, there is always enough money in budgets to remodel and accommodate but never any money for needed equipment. The evil empire had an agreement to rent bariatric apparatus. For all the rent they paid, they could have owned the stuff.
The same is true of manpower. Bariatric patients require more staff to mobilize. Dead weight is dead weight and shearing forces from linens increases it even more. I've had patients whose leg weighed more than I do. There is no way I could mobilize that person by myself. Yet, support staff is the first expense cut.
If the obese are to be accommodated, then the accommodation must be facility wide. That means bariatric equipment for physical therapy and adequate staffing to manage those patients. It means there must be more than one of anything so that it can be utilized when needed instead of when available. And as an added bonus, it would be nice if the hospital room was large enough that the equipment could fit inside.
Let's face it. People won't be getting smaller. If anything, they'll get even bigger. Health care is in crisis and the obese are adding to the problem. Our current model of providing care is no longer working. PTs seem to have been forgotten. This article is a good example. Obesity affects us directly yet we got nary a mention.