Outpatient and Visitor Buggy
9 April 2013 Last updated:
16 October 2014
By Westmead Hospital, Western Sydney Local Health District
The outpatient and visitor buggies provide less mobile patients and visitors with a safe, accessible and enjoyable method of transport along main pedestrian corridors of Westmead Hospital while maintaining dignity and respect.
Volunteers at Westmead Hospital recognised that many less physically mobile outpatients and visitors experienced difficulties walking from the main entrances of the hospital to their destinations, over 200 metres away.
Transport by orderlies using wheelchairs was not suitable for many of these people.
After an extensive planning and trial period, a modified battery-operated golf buggy able to carry 3 passengers was purchased. As a result of extremely positive evaluations, a second buggy was purchased.
The service is operated by volunteers who drive outpatients and visitors throughout the hospital on request.
The service provides around 10,000 trips per year at minimal cost without adding further pressure to hospital resources, and is highly valued by the hospital community.
Nature of the problem
Westmead Hospital is known as the largest hospital under one roof in the southern hemisphere, with over 400m in corridors to walk from one side of the main building to another. These distances caused significant difficulties to many visitors and outpatients with disabilities and age related problems attending the hospital. In NSW 12% of the population has a physical disability (Physical Disability Council of NSW, 2011). Although wheelchairs are available at all entrances and porter services can be obtained, there are often insufficient wheelchairs during busy periods to meet the needs of these people.
Patients and visitors stated they did not want to be placed in a wheelchair for transportation due to feeling that it was undignified.
Planning and implementing solutions
Planning steps included:
- a volunteer survey
- extensive consultation between volunteers and various stakeholders
- research into available buggies
The implementation committee consisted of:
- Volunteer Coordinator
- Transport Manager
- Maintenance Manager
- Security Manager
- Telecommunications Manager
- Corporate Services Manager
- Occupational Health & Safety Committee
In 2008, a trial was conducted using a 2 person golf buggy to determine the suitability of this vehicle to transport people around the facility. This was successful; however it was found that the buggy often needed to carry more than one passenger for couples and families.
The final design was a 3 passenger “Tourmaster” buggy, which was modified by installing handles and lowering the height of the vehicle. The Volunteers named the buggy Hospital-ity. The purchase of the first buggy was funded by a bank at the hospital.
A risk assessment was conducted, which recommended driver training to ensure the safe use of the buggy for drivers, passengers and other pedestrians in the hospital. Training of volunteer drivers was conducted using a train the trainer model.
The buggy routes inside the hospital, buggy stops, and operating procedures were finalised.
Signage was developed to indicate the buggy routes and stops. Information on the new service was provided to all wards and outpatient departments advising how to book the buggy and location of the buggy stops.
Outcomes and evaluation
Due to the overwhelming success of the first buggy, a second buggy was purchased with funds provided by a local bowling club.
The outcome of this program is a safe and accessible mode of internal transport for outpatients and visitors with mobility issues attending Westmead Hospital. In 2012 two 3-seat buggies will deliver approximately 10,000 trips per year, equivalent to 2,000 km.
A survey conducted revealed 100% of passengers using the volunteer buggy described waiting time, comfort and courtesy of the driver as meeting or exceeding their expectations. One passenger also commented on the survey form: "Wonderful! My grandmother can’t walk and this facility was just amazing. We loved it".
The buggies have made a significant difference not only to outpatients and visitors but also to orderlies, who were previously required to find wheelchairs to transport less mobile outpatients to their appointments. Due to the high demand on orderly services for inpatients, outpatients needing the assistance of a wheelchair were often waiting long periods of time, causing them to be late to appointments which in turn would impact on the department/ward waiting to see them. The buggy service allows orderlies to improve patient flow by transporting inpatients and sick outpatients.
Sydney West Local Health District
Phone: 02 9845 7361
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