KC company rolls out novel hospital bed for bigger patients

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- More than a third of American adults are obese, so hospitals are needing to invest in equipment to better accommodate bigger patients. A Kansas City-based company is rolling out a novel bed, one it says reduces risks for caregivers and patients.

Nurse Erica Theibault works for Sizewise Worldwide, a medical equipment company. She's also worked in hospitals where patients slide down in bed and need to be moved up for comfort and to prevent bed sores.

"Then we're gonna take the sheet," she said as she and a co-worker rolled a sheet and demonstrated how re-positioning is done manually.

It's a common way caregivers suffer acute or cumulative injuries to the back, shoulder and neck. Kevin Mercer, who says he weighs more than 300 pounds, felt bad when caregivers moved him after hip surgery.

"You want to help them and then you're too big and you can't move," said Mercer.

Sizewise says it has an innovative solution to this weighty issue.

"What I can do with the touch of two buttons is pull the patient up in bed," said Theibault.

The company's new Hercules model bed automatically moves patients weighing up to 750 pounds. The chief marketing officer describes the special bed sheet as a little magic carpet ride.

"The sheet glides up into a drive unit and it wraps in a circle into the drive unit and you have eight to 10 re-positionings," said Mary Nell Westbrook.

That's before you have to change the sheet. As you can imagine, the bed isn't cheap. It sells for around $11,000 compared to around $8,000 for a standard model. Each sheet costs about $85. But Westbrook says it should cut down on workman's comp claims and the need for two or more caregivers to re-position a patient. With this bed, it only takes one.

Sizewise, based in Kansas City, has a thousand employees nationally. The new bed is being manufactured in Hays, Kansas.