BULLHEAD CITY — A memo dated July 8 from the chief nursing officer at Western Arizona Regional Medical Center advised medical staff that “effective immediately,” they wouldn’t be able to accept patients weighing more than 349 pounds.

The memo stated broadly the reasons for the decision: “Currently, we do not have the required equipment that can safely address the needs of patients beyond the 349-pound limit. We will advise you when that situation changes.”

A copy of the memo was photographed and sent to the Mohave Valley Daily News by someone who didn’t provide their identity. The Daily News did confirm that the memo was authentic.

Jena Morga, the public information officer for WARMC, said she was aware of the memo. After some electronic communications between the hospital and the newspaper, the hospital issued a statement by email:

“Western Arizona Regional Medical Center provides emergency medical care for all patients who come to our ER. A qualified medical professional performs a medical assessment, and if a patient needs services not available in our hospital, we make arrangements for an appropriate transfer to the nearest facility with the appropriate level of care. Please note we have ordered and will be receiving bariatric equipment by the end of August to meet our patients’ needs.” 

There was no immediate response to other questions.

The next nearest hospital to Bullhead and Laughlin is Valley View Medical Center, in Fort Mohave. It also has an emergency room. That facility has patient beds that can hold people who weigh up to 450 pounds, according to a hospital spokesman.

“Additionally, we have access to bariatric speciality beds to accommodate a patient that weighs greater than 450 pounds,” said Ryan Perkins, director of marketing and communications for VVMC and Havasu Regional Medical Center in Lake Havasu City. “Our hospital CT and MRI are capable of scanning patients up to 450 pounds in addition to our outpatient Open MRI in Bullhead City.”

Other equipment at VVMC for patients described as “bariatric specific” includes wheelchairs, bedside commodes, walkers and chairs rated for people weighing greater than 400 pounds.

“The only reason we would not be able to accept an obese patient is for bariatric surgery or if they are experiencing complications after having bariatric surgery somewhere else,” Perkins noted in an email. “Bariatric surgery is an intricate subspecialty best handled by the original surgeon.”

Gastric bypass surgery falls within bariatric medicine, which is treatment of obese patients and deals with the causes and treatment of obesity. It’s not a specialty listed at either WARMC or VVMC.

The Bullhead City Fire Department stressed that both hospitals have to take all patients into their emergency rooms. The BCFD itself has bariatric equipment as well to transport such patients for emergency care they might encounter on service calls.

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