Upstate patients now have a slick new ride

Upstate University Hospital patients being wheeled from one place to another now have a slick new ride.

Upstate recently purchased 20 new medical chairs—10 for the Downtown Campus and 10 for the Community Campus—to improve the transport experience for patients and the volunteers who move them. The chairs have a sleeker design than a traditional wheelchair with smaller wheels, a tapered seat, a stationary foot rest, folding arm rests and brakes that engage when the handlebar is released, similar to a lawn mower.

The new chairs belong to Volunteer Services at the Community Campus and mostly replace the department’s use of traditional wheelchairs that hospitals have used for decades. Kristin Bruce, director of volunteer services, said the new chairs offer a lot of benefits, especially for the dozens of volunteers who transport patients around the hospitals.

“They are great because the brake is always on when you let go. If you’re on a slope you don’t have to worry,” Bruce said. “And you don’t have to bend over to unlock and lock the brakes. I think ergonomically it’s better for the volunteers.”

The new transport chairs can be stored in a nesting row—one inside the other, the same way shopping carts are stored—so they take up less room. And if Bruce can’t find one of the new chairs, she can pull up a virtual map of the hospital on her computer. Each chair is equipped with a tracking device that allows her department to determine where the chairs are at all times.

“It’s super cool technology,” she said. “We don’t want people to have to wait to be transported, so if we know exactly where the chairs are we go directly there instead of hunting all over for them.”

The chairs can accommodate up to 600 pounds and they are easy to clean, which Volunteer Services does each time between patients, she said.

Volunteer Larry Marocco, who works about 22 hours a week at the Community Campus, said the chairs have taken some getting used to but are definitely helpful when having to stop.

“The people you’re wheeling try to help and sometimes they flip the wrong lever,” which can put the brake on or off or move a leg or foot rest, Marocco said. “These chairs will eliminate that problem since the brake is a hand brake, behind the person seated.”

The 10 chairs at Community came equipped with cylindrical oxygen tank holders and a hook for an IV bag—neither of which will get much use in volunteer transports, Bruce said, so they will likely be removed soon. That should make the chair more narrow and easier to navigate through halls and doors.

Either way, the new chairs will certainly get a lot of use. So far this year, volunteers at the Community Campus have conducted more than 8,150 patient transports.

Caption: Upstate volunteer Larry Marocco, who works more than 20 hours per week at the Community Campus, holds onto one of the new medical chairs to transport patients at both hospital campuses. To the right of Marocco is one of the more traditional wheelchairs, which will not be used as frequently in volunteer patient transports.

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