How much does a bedpan machine cost to run? Part 2: Maintenance

The maintenance costs associated with bedpan machines are quite possibly the most uncertain element when trying to predict the whole life cost of a site not least due to the number of variables involved, however at the very least it is possible to break this down to give a good idea of how to get the right solution for a site. 
Capital equipment maintenance strategies can follow a range of different approaches and keeping a ‘fleet’ of waste disposal machines in good working order is no different. Most significantly, various elements of the servicing and maintenance can be fully in-sourced, particular aspects outsourced (for example an annual inspection) right through to being fully outsourced. Even with the outsourcing, there is the choice between choosing a generalist, specialist or direct with the manufacturer where possible. If spare parts are required then typically for specialist equipment the best availability and price will be via the manufacturer or approved reseller and parts for this type of equipment tend to be a fraction of the overall value of any repair activity so are a less important consideration than who will actually be doing any servicing work and any time-pressures being put on the activities.
Bedpan disposal or washer machines will also require different types of maintenance activities through their product life-span, whether than be time-based or number of cycles – a heavily used machine will inevitably require scheduled maintenance earlier than one in a low usage area, just the same way as a car will require an oil change every 5,000 miles regardless of however many months it took to drive them. Product manuals should contain information about any wear components replacement frequency, recommended maintenance schedules and other related considerations, for example definitions of machine mis-use and exclusions due to operators error (putting the wrong things in or overloading a bedpan machine) which in the ideal world will not happen however do need to be budgeted for and considered when reviewing the staff competencies for each different system or brand. There are a wide range of these human factors that affect the performance and maintenance required, to the extend that we will address these separately, how they can be reduced along with other ways to optimise your machine maintenance.
Prices for parts and labour can and do increase year to year, so for the purposes of budgeting while it is simplest to work in today’s values, factoring in a certain level of inflation in the cost of maintenance activities is advisable. If this exercise is being done for product comparison purposes then the important aspect is to ensure that costings are being done on a like-for-like basis between different bedpan machines.
Servicing costs will vary depending on factors including the number of machines you have at your site, relevant for regular scheduled maintenance activities that can be batched into single site-attendance processes, while call-out costs will also vary but more likely based on any SLAs in place or the urgency that a fix is required. These will be specific to you however the broad concepts are similar for all washers and macerators and there are processes that can be put in place to help plan and minimise these.
In addition to general electro-mechanical servicing, there are compliance requirements associated with any heating elements that need specific specialist testing to ensure effectiveness of any heat based sterilisation processes. The UK’s Healthcare Technical Manual (HTM) process for this testing regime is a must for owners of washer disinfectors and follows a tried and tested route to ensuring compliance of this type of bedpan machine. HTM heating element testing can be delivered either by specialist third parties or following widely available training course, delivered in-house by staff with the relevant competencies. Either way this is a key maintenance cost to factor in to the equation.
A simple approach to getting a ‘whole life’ cost for your product will be to split it into three portions: parts, in house labour and third party labour. For each a question can be asked of either the supplier, manufacturer or ideally a customer reference with similar usage profile as to what the costs will be over an initial period (say 0-3 years or 15,000 cycles*) and then subsequent time period (4-15 years, 75,000 cycles or whatever you consider to be a relevant life-span for comparison purposes) As with most electro-mechanical machinery there is a distinctly different profile between the intial period, supported quite often by various warranty options, and the latter period where there is a steady-state of maintenance required alongside the potential of non-wear components requiring replacement. For each of the six resulting categories, you should be asking the questions that allow you to itemise the various activities in each to give you a picture of what is going to be required, challenge the assumptions, get an idea of where any uncertainties lie and draw your own conclusions as to what will work best for you.
This template is designed to give you a starting point for understanding the key maintenance costs on your bedban machine first and foremost on a ‘cycles’ basis to allow greatest flexibility, although there are some activities that are for practical purposes scheduled on a time based frequency. As important as planning in advance is to regularly review the performance of the maintenance activities, direct and indirect costs as well as general suitability. Regular ongoing improvements can then be made to the day to day processes, your forward planning can become more accurate and with that comes improved cost control, budgeting and ultimately an improved care environment for all.
*cycles: 5,000 cycles per year is a bit more than 12 cycles per day on average, this would be low for a ward type environment, however likely higher than in a typical elderly care nursing setting. The figure of 1.6 items per immobile patient is a good starting point for adjusting this estimate to your particular scenario and is equally relevant for whatever method of bedpan & urine bottle cleaning or disposal is being used. For a more definitive data point it is always best to simply measure usage across locations in a site over a statistically meaningful period of time in advance.
How much does a bedpan machine cost to run? Part 1: Electricity