Making space for beds


Patrick Roberts explains how vertical bed storage solutions are a preferred solution for hospitals

Business and technology expert, Patrick Roberts, explains how automated, vertical bed storage systems are emerging as a preferred solution to cluttered hospital corridors

One area of continual concern within hospital settings is that of a lack of floor space, in both storage and corridor situations.

Hospitals need to keep a specific number of patient beds to meet a percentage of the population density. As this population increases, the bed count may exceed the square footage that the hospital has allowed for beds. These beds must then be stored somewhere else, and, typically, that area is not readily accessible. Consequently, they end up parked in corridors.

When located in storage areas, beds can be manoeuvred, but weighing as much as 900lbs, they frequently end up impeding access to other stored items.

An entire room with beds may have to be shifted around to retrieve various stored materials. This issue is compounded by the fact that, at any given time, approximately 10% of beds in a hospital are sidelined for maintenance or repair.

Considering the high cost of new hospital construction, some hospitals have opted to store their beds at offsite locations. But a growing number are going a different route, embracing a more-space-saving solution with motorised vertical bed storage.

Such systems occupy a little more than the footprint as a hospital bed, but are capable of storing up to five beds vertically in a collapsed position. The beds are stacked on top of each other to conserve floor space further.

“Hospital vertical bed storage systems use the automated storage and retrieval concept to both stack and remove hospital beds,” said Paul Peters, director of engineering for Vidir Machine, which manufactures an automated vertical bed storage system known as the Bedlift.

“These systems work by positioning the first bed onto the lift and raising it up, which opens up the space underneath the bed for the next unit.

“Beds are removed by reversing the procedure. The entire operation can easily be accomplished by a single individual, simply by pushing a button.”

A single hospital bed occupies approximately 28sq ft of floor space and five beds will cover a 140sq ft area. The footprint of a vertical bed storage system is 38sq ft, so utilising such a system can free up 73% of floor space - or 102sq ft - which allows this space to be used more productively.

The most-successful installations have multiple vertical storage locations throughout the hospital, within close proximity to patient areas to reduce the response time for a required bed. This also reduces the labour required to retrieve the bed from a lower-floor storage location or off-site storage area.

Depending on space constrictions, systems can provide either end-loading, which requires 17ft of space to load, or side-loading, which needs less than 9ft. System designs can also accommodate oversized beds, as well as stretchers and gurneys, by simply adding inserts to the platforms.

Hospital bed vertical storage systems increase hospital maintenance department capacity, organisation and work flow; they reduce downtime; and increase the number of beds available for patient use at any given time.

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By removing unused beds from the corridors, hospitals will also be in a better position to meet health and safety and fire safety standards.