Updated: 02/23/2013 6:14 AM KSTP.com By: Katherine Johnson
Ambulance cots used to be held in place by a single latch. It was the only part available for the vehicle we trust to deliver the injured to a hospital. But crash tests have proven it's not enough to keep the cot, and therefore, patient, secure in an accident.
"I'll be honest with you - it doesn't have to be a significant crash," said Chad Dotzler, EMS Supervisor at Hennepin County. "It doesn't take much for that cot to break away."
Another problem with the system: seat belts.
"That patient will travel forward off of the cot all the way into the attendant's chair, into the paramedic before the belts even would engage," said Dotzler.
Ambulances aren't usually tested in a crash scenario at all. So Dotzler made it his mission to find a better system. In June 2012, the federal government approved the Stryker Power-LOAD. The cot latches to the floor in every corner and better belt placement keeps the patient strapped in securely. They're installing it in every ambulance in the Hennepin County fleet - and they're the first service of this size in the world to do it.
The Power-LOAD also significantly reduces the amount of lifting paramedics have to do. Dotzler estimates it eliminates as many as 12 lifts per call.
In 2011, almost half of all Hennepin EMS workers comp injuries were directly related to loading and unloading the cot.
The Power-LOAD is set to be installed in all 27 ambulances in the fleet by April 1st. By doing so, the hospital eliminates liability in a crash. Now that the Power-LOAD exists, if anything happens to a patient in transport at a hospital without the Power-LOAD, that hospital could be held legally responsible.