Elevating The level of support in healthcare
“The company’s genesis was the development of a product that met the specific need of reducing entrapment injuries in long term care patients,” says Tony Christmas, CEO of The LiftCare Bed Company. “Conventional hospital and aged care beds have rails that contain the patient in the bed. These are necessary to ensure the safety of the patients but are also the cause of many injuries. Many patients, especially elderly patients, become disorientated and agitated at night,” says Christmas. “They try to get out of their bed increasing significantly their risk of injury. Back in the early 1980s, a Director of Nursing at one of Melbourne’s nursing homes experimented with floor level beds,” he says that this was the germination of the seed that became LiftCare.
A little bit of history
“I like to believe that LiftCare is an Australian success story that not a lot of people know about,” says Christmas. “Back in 1983, the Director of Nursing at St Anne’s Nursing Home in Hawthorn, Victoria, Sister Elaine Barclay-Abbott, became very concerned about the way confused and elderly patients were restrained in their beds – especially at night,” he relates. Some patients would try to get out of their high hospital beds at night and injure themselves. Sr. Barclay-Abbott experienced the concerns that LiftCare now addresses with its products.
“One of the patients at Hawthorn was seen as particularly problematic, often throwing themselves around in the bed at night. Worrying for the safety of their patient, the Sister and her colleagues removed the legs from the patient’s bed, with the hope that this would change the patients sleeping habits,” says Christmas. What they noticed was the patient was much more compliant and suffered fewer issues and injuries. Other beds were modified with similar results and with whole- hearted enthusiasm from the patient’s relatives and doctors. The disadvantage of these modifications was the nurses could not get to the patient as easily. Height adjustable beds were available on the market at the time, but none of the offerings went down to floor level.
“The Sister was introduced to George Winston, the founder of Technical Aid for the Disabled (TAD),” says Christmas. TAD was a not-for-profit organisation which lent their expertise to the disabled in the hopes of improving their overall quality of life. TAD looked at the problem and began to design, while concurrently conducting market research on the feasibility of a floor-level bed and its applications. “They came to the conclusion that there was a need for a bed that allowed a patient to sleep close to the floor at night, but could be raised to a height during the day to allow nursing staff to attend to the patient.”
They later were able to successfully obtain a grant and began developing the first floor level bed. They then applied for a patent that made sure the idea was secure.
TAD was a design house only, so they had to find a company qualified to manufacture the bed. “No manufacturers anywhere in the world were building floor level beds at the time. So many of the companies that were approached said that it was not within their capability,” says Christmas. The one company that was able to build the working prototype suffered financially and went into receivership.
Barry McCrimon and Allen Clarke, two gentlemen that saw the advantage of the design, were intrigued by the idea and were able to continue to work on the floor-level bed after buying the design from the original company. In 1994 they formed a company called Gerontic and General Products and produced the first floor-level bed in 1995. After that they were able to develop the idea even further, and in 1997 they launched the Mark III bed.
The company began trading as The LiftCare Bed Company and was acquired by Barton Medical in 2005, and eventually Human Care in 2008. By 2009 LiftCare was selling their products all over the world including New Zealand, Canada, the US, Europe and the Middle East.
Speciality needs, speciality care
Since their humble beginnings LiftCare has gone further than offering a single product for a single niche need, by expanding their offerings to meet the needs of several specialised markets. LiftCare now sells a range of floor level beds, patient lifters, ceiling hoists and aids for daily living products to help improve the lives of people in care. The company is also helping Bariatric patients and now markets the Barton Bariatric Bed and Barton Bariatric Chair in their range.
As an addition to Aged Care, the Protean 4 was developed specifically to break into the hospital market taking the concept of floor level nursing to a broader market… This marked an exciting new market for LiftCare, and it has already proven to be very successful. “The Protean 4 is a floor level bed that can be used as a general hospital bed. WA Public Hospitals, the Royal Melbourne Hospital, and a number of other hospitals in Australia and the world have been buying the Protean 4s,” says Christmas. A new version of the bed, called the P 5 Premium, was released this February and looks to pick up on the successful road that the P4 has prepared. LiftCare’s P5 Premium Hospital Bed is a complete care management system.
“I believe this is something we should be very proud of,” Christmas told his team recently. “We have people all over the world being cared for on our beds. It’s not just happening in Melbourne or Victoria, it is happening globally. We recently sold a large number beds into Canada, and then right after the initial sale we won a contract in Canada for our P5 Premium Hospital Bed. In January, our WA distributor purchased their 1000th bed.”
Christmas believes that every hospital and aged care facility should know at least some of the history of LiftCare and the contribution that the company has made to patient care. He would like the opportunity to show each facility the LiftCare range of products and let them see for themselves the ease-of-use and the design of their products. Another initiative that Christmas is perusing is educating the health-care industry on what exactly a floor level bed can do for both their patients and their staff. “It doesn’t just protect the patient from injury, it is a whole nursing system,” he says.
The ease of use of their products, and little touches- like under bed lighting, available on the new P5 Premium hospital bed, has made the beds a hit with many healthcare workers. Christmas says that LiftCare is always looking at ways to develop and introduce new and innovative products to improve patient outcomes and the working conditions of our customers. “Australia started the concept of floor-level nursing, we developed it, and LiftCare – through its genesis – was the first company in the market and we are one of the leaders today. We will stay in this market and continue to develop in this market,” says Christmas. “Any customer who buys one of our products is buying our heritage and our experience. They are also getting with that the peace of mind that we at LiftCare are going to continue to innovate and develop new products to suit their specific needs.”