New ambulance load system expected to help Gwinnett medics

LAWRENCEVILLE — A new equipment purchase approved Tuesday by commissioners could really lighten the load for Gwinnett County firemedics.

Officials approved a $143,640 contract for seven power-load cot systems for Gwinnett ambulances from Stryker Sales Corporation, the first in project to equip all of the county med units with equipment that will lift and lower stretchers. Officials also approved $285,671.28 for the purchase of new Stryker stretchers for the entire ambulance fleet.

Assistant Fire Chief Dan Hansen said the loading system will help personnel who have to lift 100-plus pound stretchers with patients into ambulances and then lower them at the hospital.

“It’s not just back issues. It’s chronic issues with lifting and lowering,” Hansen said of the heavy-lifting asked of medics.

The use of the power-load cot systems has shown a reduction in worker’s compensation claims in other areas, he said.

The purchase brought debate from commissioners, as Stryker is the sole manufacturer of the system in the country.

“My intention is by no means directed at the fire department,” said Commissioner John Heard, who voted no along with Tommy Hunter. “I respect their effort. … But anytime there is a sole source, I am cautious of that.”

With two new ambulance units proposed in the county’s 2014 budget, taking the total stations with a med unit to 25, Hansen said he expects the entire fleet to be equiped with the power-load systems in the next five years.