10/25/2012 12:01 EDT | Updated 12/25/2012 05:12 EST

Manitoba paramedics will test new power stretchers, aimed at reducing back ache

WINNIPEG - Manitoba paramedics are trying out new power-assisted stretchers aimed at reducing back injuries.

Health Minister Theresa Oswald says eight of the new stretchers will be evaluated in a pilot project in Winnipeg and in the Southern Regional Health Authority, which covers communities such as Altona and Portage La Prairie.

If the new stretchers are deemed to work well, they may be used across the province.

The Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union says it welcomes the move.

Union president Michelle Gawronksy (gah-RONN'-skee) says paramedics lift and transport patients day after day and that can take a toll on workers' backs.

The power-assisted stretchers cost several thousand dollars more than current models.