Clean it, bag it, get it back out


In a recent thread on the NRRTS listserv, providers discussed the intricacies of cleaning wheelchairs, something that will take on a new sense of urgency, industry stakeholders say, if a provision to eliminate the purchase option for standard power wheelchairs takes effect, as planned, on Jan. 1, 2010.

Since, under the provision, providers will maintain ownership of their wheelchairs, if a Medicare beneficiary doesn’t use his wheelchair for the full rental period, providers are going to want to clean it and get it back out the door.

Here’s what a handful of providers had to say about this new way of doing business:

Tyrrell Hunter, president, Majors Mobility, Topsham, Maine

“Our manuals get cleaned and sprayed with disinfectant and so on, but how the heck are we going to do that with power wheelchairs with an electronic controller that really shouldn’t get wet? There’s really no way to wash down a power wheelchair to the same level of cleanliness as a manual chair. I haven’t decided what we’re going to do. The good news is that 70% of the chairs we’re doing right now are rehab chairs (which are exempted from the provision).”

Rick Perrotta, president, Network Medical Supply, Charlotte, N.C.

“We’re already cleaning power wheelchairs. As part of our repair business, we put out about 15 loaners a month. We have a dirty area and a clean area. Used chairs go into the dirty area, which is physically segregated with a stripe on the floor, and once they’re clean, they go to the clean area and get bagged. Sure, there’s more stuff to clean with a power chair. It takes 20 minutes to half an hour instead of 10 minutes for a manual. The bottom line: Like with everything else we do, there’s a learning curve.”

Bob Lichtenstein, president, Hollywood Medical Supply, Hollywood, Fla.

“We already have a feel for it because what happens is, with the Group 3 power wheelchairs, after two or three years, they come back in for major modifications. We kind of refurbish them in a lot of respects through that process. It’s not the greatest thing, but it’s built into the model. I think we’ll figure out how to do it. Granted, it will be a little different, but out of all the challenges ahead of us in the industry right now, having to clean equipment doesn’t seem to rise to the occasion.”

Liz Beaulieu