27may06 (Melbourne Herald-Sun)
NEW ambulances for fat patients will be built under a $3 million funding package to be unveiled in next week's state Budget.
The reinforced ambulances will be able to transport patients weighing up to 350kg.
The ambulances will include specialist equipment such as heavy-duty wheelchairs, stretchers and lifters.
Five new ambulances will be built as a direct reaction to Australia's obesity epidemic.
Treasurer John Brumby will announce the funding on Tuesday when he delivers the Bracks Government's sixth Budget.
Of the $3 million, half will be used to fit out Victoria's rural and metropolitan ambulance fleet with bariatric, or obesity, equipment.
The new funding comes as Victoria's obesity crisis worsens, with rising numbers of "morbidly obese" people admitted to hospital.
The epidemic is reportedly taking its toll on paramedics, who face occupational health and safety risks in lifting obese patients.
The $3 million ambulance funding aims to protect paramedics as well as ensuring ambulances can cater for obese patients.
The new obesity ambulances are expected to be on Victorian roads in February next year.
The ambulance package is part of its $25 million anti-obesity funding boost expected to be announced in the budget.
Last week the Herald Sun revealed that about $10 million of the funding would be funnelled into school programs promoting healthy eating, exercise and positive body image.
Schools will also be able to apply for grants of more than $50,000 to set up vegetable gardens and grants of up to $6000 to encourage physical activity and nutrition.
State Government statistics show almost half of all Victorian adults are overweight or obese.
Childhood obesity is particularly worrying for parents and doctors, with children as young as four battling weight problems.
Hospitals are spending thousands of dollars on the installation of bariatric equipment that can care for patients weighing up to 500kg.
Last year the Royal Melbourne Hospital opened a purpose-built room with extra-wide doorways and bathroom, reinforced toilet, arm rails and beds to hold patients from 350kg to 500kg.
I think more people need to read, understand and embrace the Paleolithic lifestyle.