Timaru firefighters are no strangers to medical callouts where obese patients are in need of lifting.
This week six firefighters were needed to lift a 320 kilogram woman from her Canterbury home. They had to remove a window to get her out.
The 54-year-old, and the mattress she lay on, were placed on a loader and carried to a waiting ambulance. The process took almost two hours. She was then driven to Christchurch Hospital where eight firemen carried her inside.
Such efforts were not unusual, Timaru senior station officer Martyn Bennett said.
The last time he assisted St John to lift an overweight or obese patient was about a year ago.
"We certainly get asked to assist St John."
However, only a small proportion of those calls for help were for overweight patients.
"It's more [about us] assisting St John because it's difficult to access [where the patient is] or difficult to move them."
He said on one occasion a patient was in a shower and on another occasion there was a difficult staircase to navigate.
"There's four of us [firefighters] and only two of them [St John staff]," Bennett said.
St John territory manager for South Canterbury Darryn Grigsby said the fire service provides valuable skills and personnel to assist St John officers in certain situations.
"There are several reasons we may need to do this and the weight of a person is only one. More often it is due to a long distance or a tricky location."
Timaru Hospital is also equipped to care for overweight patients.
It has a range of bariatric items, which are hired out when required. These include a flotation chair and hoist, which can take up to 400kg each.
It also has two wheelchairs, one which takes up to 300kg and the other up to 400kg.
There is also an overhead gantry, taking up to 400kg and two beds taking 300kg each. The hospital also has a bariatric walking frame.
- The Timaru Herald