Air Ambulances Turning Away Patients Because of Weight Issues

In the crucial minutes it takes to get a critically injured person to a trauma hospital, the use of an air ambulance could mean the difference between life and death.

Those planes and helicopters are facing a growing challenge: the size of patients they must transport.

For example, if you are seriously injured anywhere in New Mexico and have to be airlifted to a medical facility, it will likely be University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque.

The air ambulances that make those life-saving deliveries have a weight limit of 350 pounds.

Any more than that and the plane can not get off the ground.

Those too large to be airlifted to Albuquerque have to take a slower route; the patient has to be driven.

That was the case more than two weeks ago.

A man in rural northern New Mexico needed to be airlifted to the hospital, but his size kept lifeguard from flying him.

The man did survive.

Besides the weight limit, there is also a girth limit for medical aircraft.

Paramedics say they can only bring people inside the plane who can fit through its door.

In situations where a patient can't be transported by air, the flight nurse and paramedic go with the patient by ground ambulance, turning the vehicle into a rolling intensive care unit.

Experts say incidents like these are rare, but growing.