Business Moves Group’s managing director, Rachel Houghton, looks at how to overcome the challenges associated with hospital relocations
It’s no secret that the Coronavirus pandemic has shined an unrelenting light on hospitals, exposing areas that were previously latent and thrusting them into public consciousness.
Most significantly, perhaps, the pandemic has exposed the urgent need for hospitals to modernise and expand facilities, exemplified by the temporary Nightingale units that cropped up in major cities across the UK.
With increased media attention, expanding services, and the quest to house more-innovative technologies and equipment, many hospitals are relocating to newer, more-advanced sites.
And estate managers should prepare to support this rise in relocation.
Moving hospitals is arguably the biggest challenge of all: you’re doing so much more than moving a business – you’re moving a whole community
At Business Moves Group, we’ve supported numerous hospital and healthcare clients with relocation and workplace change projects.
The following five insights are some of the fundamental things we’ve learned along the way.
Humanity must be at the forefront of your plan
In other sectors, it’s easier to find a period of downtime in which to schedule a move – whether that’s over the summer holidays when office employees are often out of the country or when a client is less busy.
Obviously when it comes to hospitals, this isn’t really an option.
I’d go as far as to say that moving hospitals is arguably the most challenging of all: you’re doing so much more than moving a business – you’re moving a whole community.
And it’s crucial to remember that you’ll most likely be moving real human bodies too.
Some of the most-vulnerable members of our society will be with you through the location change – so make sure it’s patient safety that you place front of mind.
We train our staff so they’re sensitive of their surroundings and comfortable dealing with stressful situations. That could involve advice on keeping noise levels to a minimum, or ensuring they are not in the way of hospital staff.
Also, vital medical equipment can be required at short notice, so there’s always a need to react quickly. Training employees on how to be reactive and adaptable is therefore another key aspect of our planning.
Communication is everything
When it comes time to liaising with the various healthcare teams on timings and specificities, bear in mind there will likely be many unique requests.
We work closely with stakeholders to communicate our protocols and adhere to any additional requests they have.
You’ll need to get in touch with contacts at the other end of the relocation journey who will be responsible for receiving the goods and guaranteeing the sign-off process is watertight
This can include processes such as personal audits in which every healthcare team is consulted about their own needs. You can then evaluate where you might need specialist movers and identify where you might need to move things especially quickly.
For example, when we relocated the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow we found that sometimes additional care is necessary to safely transport supplies and you might need a specialist who can apply this diligence.
You’ll also need to get in touch with contacts at the other end of the relocation journey who will be responsible for receiving the goods and guaranteeing the sign-off process is watertight.
Keep things clean
We all know the importance of cleanliness and hygiene, but even before the pandemic, health and safety was of the utmost importance for hospital relocation teams.
Providing relocation teams with protective equipment and frequent sanitisation is necessary to protect patients, hospital employees, and your own teams.
A hospital relocation is always going to be a huge task, regardless of other circumstances, so keeping these factors in mind from the outset should help set a solid foundation for a move
With such sensitive equipment, maintaining the high hygiene standards throughout the move should be a main priority.
As with all aspects of relocation, creating a streamlined plan before you transport any items is top of the list.
A detailed itinerary of exactly what will be transported and what will be left behind is an essential resource that you can refer back to as you move. It’ll also help you mark out any specific requirements, such as temperature control or extremely-fragile items.
We also map out our routes in advance and provide security if necessary.
And it’s a good idea to ensure you have enough different-sized crates, cages and skates (also known as dollies) available so you can transport all the equipment that needs to be moved.
A detailed itinerary of exactly what will be transported and what will be left behind is an essential resource that you can refer back to as you move
You’ll also likely need specialist vehicles that include electricity and air conditioning.
While each relocation is unique, you’ll no doubt have to deal with transportation of specialist equipment during any healthcare relocation. Oftentimes, this can be heavy equipment such as machinery. Other times, it could be that you need to move items in awkward spaces.
When we worked with Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham, we relocated X-ray files which were stored in a basement only accessible via a spiral staircase. We also had to make sure all records stayed in chronological order.
Double down on security
Part of a successful healthcare move relies heavily on how effective the administration side of the hospital is delivered. This includes paper and digital records which must be kept secure, confidential, and intact.
For paper records, we take an extensive audit and use GPS-tracked vehicles.
Anti-static bubble wraps for computer monitors are a great way of preventing damage caused by electrostatic charges during transport or storage.
And calling on specialist IT teams to handle digital records and work closely with internal IT staff at the hospital could save a lot of time and room for error.
A hospital relocation is always going to be a huge task, regardless of other circumstances, so keeping these factors in mind from the outset should help set a solid foundation for a move.