Grant aids Hudson EMS in purchase of powered stair chairs

by Emily Canning-Dean

A recent grant from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation has allowed Hudson EMS to make a purchase that improves safety for both their staff and their patients.

The agency recently received a $25,298 grant from the bureau for the purchase of two powered stair chairs. These battery-operated, motorized chairs allow EMS staff to easily transport patients down stairs without requiring them to lift the full weight of the patient.

“This helps to save the backs of our employees and also helps them to safely get a patient down a set of stairs,” Fire Chief Jerry Varnes said. “It can be a challenge for two people to carry a patient down a narrow staircase in a two-story home. But this powered chair allows the patient to come down step by step with our employees still guiding the chair, but without having to carry the full weight.”

Varnes added that he thinks the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation was very forward thinking in offering these grants to local agencies.

“These chairs help our employees, but it also reduces the burden on the state because these chairs will likely mean fewer injury claims from the employees,” he said. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”

Varnes said the chair is especially helpful with larger patients who might be more challenging to transport down a full flight of stairs.

“Right now, about 50% of our staff is female so if you have an employee who is 110 pounds soaking wet trying to help lift a 350-pound man down the stairs, it can be very difficult,” he said. “But with this chair, just two employees can easily guide the patient down the steps.”

Varnes said Hudson EMS has three front-line ambulances that are constantly in use. The grant covered the cost of two of the powered stair chairs and the city recently purchased a third so that all three ambulances are outfitted with these chairs.

“We do have a fourth ambulance, but it is a spare that we use when one of the main three are out of service,” Varnes said. “When one of the main ambulances goes out of service, we can take the powered chair from that ambulance and put it in the spare ambulance for the time being. It would be too costly to purchase a fourth powered stair chair when it would mostly just sit there not being used. Our main ambulances get serviced pretty regularly, needing new tires or oil changes and they can be out of service for a few days at a time.”

Varnes said the EMS department does use all four ambulances at one time when there is a large volume of calls at once, but he said this occasion happens less than 10 times a year.

“I think we were one of the first departments to apply for the funds and get these chairs, which we are glad for because there is limited funding,” he said. “These chairs are becoming very popular.” ∞

Photo: Hudson EMS now has powered stair chairs in all three of their main ambulances. Photo submitted.