Aching backs prompt county to purchase motorized stretcher

Not only are some waistlines expanding, so are the county’s claims for Workers’ Compensation Insurance. Grady County Commissioners are taking action in hopes of reducing work-related injuries.
Coming off what one county official described as a “horrible” year for the county in relation to Workers’ Compensation Insurance claims, Grady County Emergency Medical Service Director Billy Rathel petitioned the board of commissioners Tuesday to purchase a motorized stretcher that has a 700 pound capacity.
During 2010, Grady County EMS personnel suffered back injuries in 10 incidents while attempting to lift patients. In two of those work-related injuries, the EMS personnel have had to vacate their position because their injuries prevent them from any job that requires heavy lifting. According to County Clerk Carrie Kines, the two employees remain on Workers’ Comp and under a doctor’s care.
“They are not disabled, but are not eligible for work that requires lifting,” she explained.
Through June of last year, $83,520 in claims for the reported back injuries had been paid. The total through the end of the year is not yet available, according to Kines.
The cost of a new motorized stretcher is approximately $15,000, but the model Rathel presented to the board was a demonstrator that could be purchased for $10,500.
“There is no guarantee that this will prevent back injuries in the future, but I feel it will help reduce injuries,” EMS Director Rathel said.
According to county officials, Rathel teaches his EMS personnel safe lifting techniques on an on-going basis and employees utilize all available equipment to try and prevent injury or harm to county employees.
In addition to the lower sales price, the motorized stretcher will have a three year power train warranty and a two year “bumper to bumper” warranty, according to Rathel.
Approximately $500 to $600 of accessories are also being included in the discounted sales price the EMS director told commissioners.
“It is a good deal, no two ways about it. We’ve got some people in this county that it takes four people to get them up on the stretcher and then to get the stretcher out of the house. We have to call the police and fire department to assist and Billy and his crew know where these addresses are,” Grady County Administrator Rusty Moye said.
According to Moye, the motorized stretcher will be housed at the station and sent out on calls only when overweight patients are in need of care.
Commissioner Al Ball asked if there was any money in the EMS budget that could be used to finance the purchase rather than taking the entire amount out of the county’s contingency fund.
The county administrator said there was not and described the EMS budget as “tight.”
County officials also discussed the purchase as being a preventative measure in combating work-related injuries.
Commissioner T.D. David suggested the county administrator communicate the purchase with the Workers’ Compensation Insurance carrier in hope of earning a credit for the preventative action.
“It may not make a difference, but we need to let them know about it. Sometimes they will do that,” David said.
Chairman Charles Norton, concerned about the dwindling contingency fund commented, “All I would say is don’t bankrupt the house with all these deals.”
Traditionally, the county budgets $5,000 annually for equipment purchases in the EMS budget.
Commissioners voted unanimously to purchase the motorized stretcher.

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