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Bed Cooler for Ng Teng Fong Hospital

12 February 2013


Introduction

The 700-bed Ng Teng Fong hospital at Jurong East is set to open in December 2013.  It will serve the 900,000-strong residential and business community in the West of Singapore.  It shall have green surroundings and spacious wards with a view of  several rooftop gardens.  However,  what most patients need is also a good rest and a good night sleep for quick recovery in the hospital;  it is always hard to get one in a hot and humid environment like in Singapore.  

Is it acceptable?

 
The report said that the spacious wards in Ng Teng Fong hospital will have natural ventilation except for those in private wards.  Those who was bedridden before will testify that this is far from acceptable. What about those who are suffering from bed sore?   

What can be done?

 
One way is to provide air-conditioning for all the wards.  But this will not only make hospital stays  more expensive but also not acceptable because it is unhygienic to share recycled air.   Furthermore,  individual control for air-conditioning is not possible except for the private rooms.  Howvewr, Air conditioners cannot solve bed sore problem unless the heat from the bed can be extracted.   Other methods such as provision of water bed and ripple bed will not help also.   The alternative is to provide bed cooler,  one for each bed.

 

 

What is a Bed Cooler?

 
It is a small air conditioning system that will cool only the bed.  It has a cooling  sheet or jacket spreaded between the bed sheet and the bed.  The cooling sheet may have embedded flexible tubes or otherwise that will allow cooled air or chilled water to be circulated to the bed to extract the body heat.  The simple ones used a cooling fan blowing into the cooling sheet;  the more complicated ones use chilled water for cooling.  The latter is preferred because it can provide better and efficient cooling.   

What are the Advantages?

 
Bed coolers will not only provide affordable cooling,  it is also hygienic as water is used as a media in a closed loop system.  It will work well in natural ventilated wards.  Bed coolers can save up to 90% of the air conditioning bills.  If they are operated together with existing air conditioning,  it can save up to 50% of the energy bills as the temperature of the existing air conditioning can be raised.  The system can be designed to be controlled remotely,  individually and/or centrally  to suit the patients’ cooling requirement.  

Bed sore is one of the biggest problem in hospitals as most hospital use  PVC covered mattresses and pillows for hygienic reason and ease of cleaning.   Patients are often strapped with tubes or illnesses making them difficult to turn their backs and bodies around like ordinary people.    Prolonged staying in the bed in a position will cause bed sores.  Although the nurses can help,  they are often very busy.  Bed coolers can help to solve this bed sore problem,  save labour as well as energy cost.  
 

Why our Hospitals not using them?

 
It may be because bed cooler is a relatively new concept that has never been used in hospitals.   Many are not sure just how they would fit into the hospital's operation. Bed coolers are quickly perceived to have operational  problem;  for example, how to ensure that the cooling system can be quickly connected and disconnected when the bed is always on the move.  

Bed Cooler,  a Proven System?

 
Bed coolers are actually nothing new.  They are just miniature size of a chilled water cooling system that has been used in cooling large buildings. They can be part of the existing air conditioning  system with addition of  inexpensive controls and minimum maintenance. 


As for the  quick connection and disconnection of chilled water piping for beds on the move without making a mess on the floor,  there are proven  quick connectors that one can use to ensure safe connection and disconnection without any water spillage or leakage.  Such quick connectors have been used in car racing sports  to fill up the petrol for the racing cars within minutes or seconds.    
 

Additional Cost

 
The bed cooler can make use of the existing chillers often installed as a standard in air conditioning buildings.  The additional cost for the new building will not be much;  even for existing buildings,  it would be possible to add bed coolers without additional chillers as the burden of bed coolers  should  be offset by reduced air conditioning load.   The additional cost will therefore be the PVC water jacket which will cost less than $20/= each when purchased in bulk.  There will be additional cost for quick connectors, small pumps, heat exchanger,  tubing and flow controls which a rough estimate indicates that it will not cost more than  $400 per bed including installation. 

 

 

Conclusion

 
It is good for hospital to have all the features and facilities that are designed for healing but what is the use if the patient cannot get a good rest or a good night sleep in a hot and humid environment of Singapore.  Bed coolers will not only save energy bills, it can also save labour cost and solve bed sore problems
 
 

Update :  19 August 2014

 
Just read  that Tan Tock Seng Hospital had retrofitted their hospital's subsidised  wards with  air conditioning.   This indicates that there are demands even for existing hospital to retrofit its wards for better comfort of the patients.  However,  the air conditioning provision will not be able to solve the bed sore problem because the air conditioning cannot reach the bed and take away the body heat built-ups;  only bed coolers can.   
 
The retrofitting of the air conditioning to existing building will cost at least 200% more than bed cooler,  requiring extensive retro-fitting work and closure of the wards for some long period.  As for the bed cooler,  one will need only a bottom corner space to run horizontal PVC trunking for piping and controls.,  the installation should take less than a week.
 
 

References

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