IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Hospitals feel new costs of obese patients

Hospitals in the United States are facing new costs as they must buy expensive equipment to accommodate the growing number of severely obese patients, according to a survey.
/ Source: Reuters

U.S. hospitals are buying expensive new equipment such as reinforced toilets and oversized beds to treat the growing number of severely obese patients, according to a survey released Thursday.

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 .

The group quoted 80 percent of hospitals as saying they had treated more severely obese patients in the last year than ever before, with 17 percent saying they had remodeled to accommodate the largest patients.

"We are finding that hospitals across the country 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," Jody Hatcher, senior vice president of Novation, said in a statement.

More than 30 percent of U.S. adults are obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This translates to 59 million people.

Obesity is defined as having a body mass index of 30 or more. BMI is a measure of weight versus height, and serious health implications such as heart disease kick in at BMIs of 30 and above. This can mean being as few as 30 pounds above desired weight. But as obesity becomes more common in the United States, so does extreme obesity.

Web sites such as offer furniture to accommodate people weighing 500 pounds and more, while has a line of oversized caskets.

Wausau Hospital in Wausau, Wisc., told Novation it spent $200,000 this year to remodel rooms, order special equipment and train staff to deal with extremely obese patients.

"We've had to buy special, longer surgical gloves and even needles and syringes," said Kent Demien, director of materials management at Wausau. "Standard equipment becomes obsolete on many of our larger patients."

Demien said many patients or hospital visitors are too heavy for a wall-mounted toilet, which can handle up to 300 pounds. The hospital plans to replace them with pedestal commodes that can support 2,000 pounds.

The Novation survey polled administrators from 69 U.S. hospitals representing small, rural hospitals and large urban centers.