Marking a troubling trend towards obesity in Canada, a new ambulance built to accommodate patients weighing as much as 1,000 pounds is about to make its debut in Calgary.

"It's being recognized by manufacturers of clothes, by manufacturers of automobiles and by the airline industry. So they have to accommodate these people," said Keith Sharkey, an obesity researcher at the University of Calgary.

The city's new "bariatric response team" will include an air-bag system to help transport obese patients onto stretchers and a hydraulic lift system to bring patients into the ambulance.

Specially trained paramedics will also be used to deal with obese patients.

The remote lift system, which costs about $30,000, automatically raises patients on a widened stretcher and into the ambulance.

"How the (Emergency Medical Services) sees it, is even if it prevents one or two back injuries it's well worth it," said Paul Lapointe, the public education officer with Calgary EMS.

"And, on the other hand, if it provides dignity to our patients, it's definitely worth the cost."

Dr. David Lau, an endocrinologist who is also the president of Obesity Canada, called the measure a "good step forward."

"I do have a number of patients who are 500 pounds and up and they normally cannot be transferred anywhere," Lau told The Globe and Mail. "It may sound trivial and yet it's not. It's a big (problem), to pardon the pun."

The new ambulance will also ease the strain on paramedics who previously had to find a way to transport obese patients.

"You have to picture a lot of responders on the scene, a lot of bodies, a lot of manpower, required to (move an obese patient)," EMS official Grant Therrien told CTV Calgary.

"And there are challenges required in keeping the patient's dignity, and using a safe method to move these patients and provide them with the treatment they need."

Still, other treatment challenges are yet to be addressed. Currently, CT scanners and magnetic resonance imaging machines can only service patients who weigh less than 350 pounds (159 kilograms).

Since 1985, the number of morbidly obese people in Canada has quadrupled, according to the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Nearly a quarter of Canadians qualify as obese, reports Statistics Canada.

With a report from CTV Calgary