Specialist materials handling company, Wilmat, has come to the rescue of hospital mortuary staff struggling to cope with the increasing weight of deceased patients.
Obesity is an issue rarely out of the headlines but as well as contributing to many early deaths it is creating real problems for dedicated hospital workers who face the sensitive task of looking after the deceased before their bodies are released for burial.
Birmingham-based Wilmat has been working with the Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester to develop specialist equipment to help mortuary staff carry out their work without harming themselves or compromising the dignity of the deceased.
"The increasing weight of some patients is causing severe problems for mortuary staff as the equipment we have traditionally used is not able to cope with weights of more than 30 stone (190kg)," explained Andy Pearson, Bereavement Services Manager at the Christie.
"The refrigerated mortuary shelves used in most hospitals are of a floor to ceiling design and so a lot of lifting is required and there is a real risk to people moving the deceased if the equipment is not up to the job."
After a routine call from a member of the Wilmat team, Andy met up with the company’s Chairman, Roger Williams to discuss the development of a specialist solution to the problem.
Said Roger: "Working closely with Andy we adapted existing material handling equipment manufactured at our production facility in Steward Street, Birmingham.
"The collaboration has resulted in a unique mortuary stacker that can lift up to 60 stone (380kg) and can be used by a single operator. The battery-powered stacker has been named the Dignity 60 and also features a unique, power driven push/pull loading system that enables the deceased to be treated with dignity by avoiding the need for them to be manually lifted in and out of the refrigeration units."
Other features include: push button lift/lower control; horn and full direction drive control; powered tray, safety slipping clutch, electronic weigh scale and auto-tare facility.
A prototype model has been in use at the Christie for several months and has proved so successful that the hospital now looks after deceased patients from across the North West.
Continued Andy: "We now accept deceased from many other hospitals as they do not have the equipment to deal with them if they are obese.
"The Dignity 60 has proved extremely reliable and does exactly what its name suggests — retaining the dignity of the deceased while reducing the health and safety risks for people working in the mortuary. It also enables us to move the deceased around the mortuary and in and out of the post mortem room in a single operation."
Added Roger: "We are delighted that the Dignity 60 has met all the requirements of Andy and his team at the Christie and we hope that other hospitals across the UK will soon benefit from the development of this unique product.
"Recent statistics published by the NHS Information Centre suggest that hospital admissions relating to obesity have risen by 60 per cent in the last year, so this would appear to be a problem that is set to get worse in coming years."