Hospitals Burdened by Obese Patients

Sep 08, 2004 10:35 AM EDT

A recent survey has found that US hospitals are buying expensive new equipment, such as reinforced toilets and oversized beds, to treat the growing number of severely obese patients.

Novation, a group-purchasing organization for hospitals and other health care institutions, found that hospitals are seeing more severely obese patients—people who are overweight by at least 100 pounds.

Hospitals having to remodel

The Novation survey polled administrators from 69 US hospitals representing small, rural hospitals and large urban centers. The group quoted 80% of hospitals as saying they had treated more severely obese patients in the last year than ever before—with 17% saying they had remodeled to accommodate the largest patients.

The survey results showed that hospitals across the US are buying more large-size beds; larger blood pressure cuffs; wider, reinforced wheelchairs and larger versions of other basic supplies to adjust to patient needs.

Up to $200,000 a year

For example, a hospital in Wisconsin reported spending $200,000 this year to remodel rooms, order special equipment and train staff to deal with obese patients. The hospital had to buy special, longer surgical gloves, special needles and syringes and even special pedestal toilets to support heavier patients who strain the older, wall-mounted variety.

More than 30% of US adults are obese, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This translates to approximately 59 million people. Obesity is defined as having a body mass index of 30 or more.