A new British hospital has acquired a fleet of robots to carry out menial tasks including transporting waste, delivering food and dispensing drugs.
Management at the Forth Valley Royal Hospital, which opens in August, say the robots won’t take jobs away from staff: instead they’ll free up more time for them to attend to other duties. At least one human will be kept on standby to deal with breakdowns.
The hospital has signed a deal with manufacturer Serco to run a “portering and logistics service” which uses the robots, human porters, and a series of pneumatic tubes (which will primarily be used for transporting medical specimens.)
The human staff will mainly work on moving patients around the hospital and will also transport deceased patients to the morgue. They’ll also be responsible for evacuating people in the event of a fire alarm.
To avoid cross-contamination, the robots will be divided into “clean” and “dirty” tasks, and there will be two separate sets of laser signals around the hospital to make sure the two types don’t share the same path. As much of the movement as possible will be in underground tunnels.
A BBC reporter who visited the hospital says the robots resemble small forklift trucks, but with a rotating laser beam in place of a driver.
The full costs of the robots haven’t been made public: they have been built into the building and operating costs of the new hospital, said to be £300 million (approximately $450USD million).
The robot system is similar to that used in some other countries, including this Swiss-made model: