Park: A bed story

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to stay in the hospital? Maybe you have already. Maybe you are one of the lucky ones that haven’t yet. Patients spend the majority of their visit to a hospital in a bed. A simple, unsexy, plain, insignificant bed. As inconsequential as this piece of equipment may seem, it is actually one of the most important.

From the moment you are admitted to the hospital until the moment you leave, the majority of your stay will be on a bed. Physicians, nurses and other specialists will meet with you while you are on a bed. They will diagnose you while you are on a bed, they will likely perform testing on you while you are on a bed.

When you get transported to other areas in the hospital they move you on a bed, or they transfer you to a smaller more mobile bed called a stretcher. Regardless you are on a bed the majority of the time.

The thing about beds is they have a shelf life. There is a certain point in the life of a bed where it becomes more expensive to maintain it than to purchase a new one. This becomes a problem when your beds are in use almost all the time.

In 2015 the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre was at over capacity 233 days out of 365. That means 64 per cent of the time there were no available beds in rooms, resulting in some patients being placed in overflow areas. You can see how critical our beds are to our hospital.

Seniors are the largest users of hospital beds. They average about 11 days with each stay accounting for 48 per cent of overall bed use. Staying in the hospital that many days and potentially in a bed for that long creates many issues.

Fragile patients such as the elderly are a higher risk for skin breakdown.

Falls are another potential hazard for patients. Generally, patients are in the hospital because they are not well, undergoing tests, or are recovering from surgery or treatment. This can leave the patient with muscle weakness, mobility issues, and confusion from any drugs they are on. The patient’s bed needs to be a safe place where they can recover free from tripping or falling hazards.

Beds are more than a place for patients to rest: they are critical tools in patient care, and new bed technology allows for improvements in patient care. For example, new beds can be raised and lowered more efficiently so it is easier for patients to get in and out on their own, lessening the potential for falls.

The surfaces of these new technology beds are more breathable, with some offering air surfaces that will help to reduce skin break down and potentially lessen the threat of costly and painful ulcers. Beds are also now equipped to assist health-care providers to reposition or turn patients as well as transfer them. Some beds are motorized, and smaller health-care providers can still transport patients, regardless of the patient’s size.

As you have read, beds are of critical importance to patient care in our hospital.

This year our Hospitals’ Lottery is raising money to replace older beds with new technology beds — beds to help support enhanced patient care, improve treatment and help prevent injuries to care givers.

For those that have donated or purchased tickets, I sincerely thank you on behalf of the patients of Central Alberta who use our hospital and its beds every day.

Iaian Park is the executive director of the Red Deer Regional Health Foundation.