VHA Hospitals Report Increases in Obese Patients and Related Worker Injuries; Caring for Obese Patients Costs Individual Hospitals Up to $200,000 Annually

Jan 31, 2005, 00:00 ET from VHA Inc.

    IRVING, Texas, Jan. 31 /PRNewswire/ -- A nationwide survey of VHA Inc.
 hospitals shows that caring for obese patients is an increasing challenge as
 providers continue to experience spiraling costs, increases in worker injuries
 and a significant number of patients who are obese, even in pediatrics.
 Hospitals have seen the need for new equipment, supplies and training to
 properly care for this population.  Many hospitals turn to their group
 purchasing relationships with companies like Novation, VHA's supply services
 company, to access and save money on bariatric-related supplies and resources.
     Conducted by Novation, the VHA member survey queried 584 directors of
 materials management and directors of surgical services across the country to
 determine the influence that treating severely obese patients (more than
 100 pounds overweight) had on hospitals in 2004.  It is a follow-up to a
 survey conducted in 2003.  Eighty-two health care professionals, or
 14 percent, responded.
     "The cost of treating the severely obese patient shot up 24 percent in
 just one year," said Sandy Wise, RN, MBA, senior director of medical and
 surgical services at Novation.  "What is really shocking is that 90 percent of
 obese patients are seen in the emergency departments and 53 percent of the
 pediatric patients are obese.  These are not patients coming to the hospital
 for bariatric surgery, but are being seen for other medical conditions."
     Following the emergency room, the other areas where obese patients are
 treated are in intensive care units, surgery and cardiology.
     In addition to increased hospital spending, obese patients have affected
 health care worker safety.  Twenty-eight percent of respondents reported an
 increase in workplace injuries related to lifting obese patients, with back
 injuries being most common.  With the current nursing shortage, hospitals
 cannot afford to have a nurse out because of an injury.
     The majority, 84 percent, of VHA hospitals responding to the survey say
 they offer special training to help staff better understand how to care for
 obese patients.  Training most often centers on lifting or transferring
 patients, including the proper use of lifting devices as well as sensitivity
     Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital in Milwaukee is taking steps to
 address the increasing obese population by purchasing wider equipment with
 larger weight capacities and by offering training for staff twice a year to
 learn how to properly care for obese patients.
     "Our Injury Reduction Committee is addressing policies, procedures and
 ongoing education needs related to the use of appropriate equipment to use in
 caring for all patients and the increasing obese population," said Lynne
 Mueller, R.N., clinical materials resource manager at Froedtert.  "Much of our
 new equipment is geared towards safe transfer and care of the obese patients,
 such as lifts, transfer boards, reclining chairs, transfer devices and
 wheelchairs that all have higher weight capacities."
     Most survey respondents indicated they had to order new products or
 supplies to accommodate obese patients last year.  At the top of the product
 lists were furniture for patients and visitors, surgical supplies, and lift
 and transfer equipment.  The most common supplies purchased included
 wheelchairs and beds.  Hospitals have spent up to $233,000 on new supplies in
     Currently, Novation offers more than 800 of the most-widely used bariatric
 products in its bariatric portfolio and will continue to research issues faced
 by hospitals to provide the most cost-effective ways to control costs in
 hospitals while still maintaining a high level of care.
     Wise said, "While this survey was not meant to produce exact figures, it
 supports the trend that treating obese patients is a major challenge for
 hospitals and health care professionals."
     For a copy of the survey results, "2004 Obese Patient Care Survey Market
 Research Report," go to http://www.vha.com .
     About VHA -- VHA Inc. is a national alliance of leading not-for-profit
 health care providers that work together to improve the health of the
 communities they serve.  VHA delivers industry leading supply chain management
 services and enables regional and national member networks to improve clinical
 and operational performance and drive sustainable results.  Organized as a
 cooperative and based in Irving, Texas, VHA has 18 local offices serving
 members across the United States.
     About Novation -- Based in Irving, Texas, Novation was established in
 January 1998 through a combination of the supply programs of VHA and UHC, two
 national health care alliances.  Novation serves the purchasing needs of more
 than 2,300 members and affiliates of VHA and UHC.  Novation managed more than
 $23 billion in annual purchases for VHA and UHC members in 2004.
      Contact:  Lynn Gentry