Hospitals forced to 'supersize' beds amid obesity crisis among patients
Ireland's obesity crisis is forcing more hospitals to go "supersized" by investing in extra-large equipment and furniture capable of holding patients weighing up to 50 stone.
The surge in demand for bariatric beds, chairs, commodes and theatre operating tables by patients undergoing routine care is revealed in documents released to the Irish Independent under Freedom of Information laws.
It shows that St Columcille's Hospital in Dublin, which has a treatment centre for obese patients, is paying €125 a day (€46,625 a year) to rent a heavy-weight bed, large armchair and commode.
The most expensive item of equipment it has had to purchase has been an operating table worth €75,542 which is reinforced to support a patient of up to 50 stone.
However, the rising levels of obesity are now forcing most hospitals across the country to provide extra-large and super-strength specialist equipment.
It comes in the wake of the Government's obesity action plan launched last week - without costing or funding.
It plans to cut the average weight of the nation by 5pc in a decade amid warnings that Ireland is on course to become the fattest nation in Europe.
Portlaoise Hospital had to commission an operating theatre table built on site at a cost of more than €40,000.
Even extra-large cushions are having to be bought at a cost of around €150 each.
Standard medical equipment is also no longer able to work properly on growing numbers of obese patients - one doctor said X-rays can be like trying to shine a torch through a fog.
Technology companies are making enlarged CT and MRI scans to stop patients becoming stuck in standard-size machines.
Louth Hospital had to pay €2,398 last year for a sling package, while Naas General Hospital has a hoist capable of carrying the weight of a patient of 35 stone.
Obesity expert Prof Donal O'Shea, who treats obese patients in St Columcille's, said there were currently around 300 patients on his waiting list for weight-reduction surgery.
Another 150 patients are in the queue for the same surgery in Galway. This year a "record" high 40 of these operations will be carried out here but he was "embarrassed" to describe it in those terms because the number is still too low.
"It's absolutely not enough," he added. A second surgeon capable of doing this specialist surgery is being appointed. One in every two people over 50 has at least one chronic disease, with overweight and obesity among the main causes.
What is being spent where on extra-strong gear
St Columcille's Hospital, Dublin: €75,542 for a theatre operating table able to hold up to 50 stone.
Louth County Hospital: €2,638 in 2015 on bariatric commodes suitable for 40-stone patient.
Connolly Hospital, Dublin: €17,233 in 2015 on extra large beds, chair showers and electric hoists.
Naas General Hospital: €150 cushion for 28-stone patient and €730 on a 24-inch chair big enough for a 35-stone patient.
Portlaoise Hospital: €14,850 on a rented bed able to take 39-stone weight.
Cavan and Monaghan Hospitals: €9,646 on bariatric beds, large chairs and a special reinforced hoist for intensive care unit.