By Tracy Cabrera
FACING an acute shortage of nurse and other hospital staff, a hospital in Thailand has resorted to the use of robotic assistance to fill the void, according to initial reports from the country’s capital city.
Officials of the Mongkutwattana General Hospital in Bangkok, said they couldn’t find enough qualified human personnel to keep up with the demand so have hired three robot nurses from China and even dressed them up in the hospital’s yellow uniform to address the sudden heavy influx of patients.
The three robots, named Nam, Nim and Nee, were made by a Chinese tech start-up based in Shenzen. The mobile nurses are AGVs, acronym for Automated Guided Vehicles, and are mainly being used to dispense medicine and make deliveries between the eight stations of the hospital. The robots can even ride the elevators by themselves and communicate both in Thai and Chinese. Technicians are able to adjust their settings via a touch screen system.
Nam, Nim and Nee travel along a black magnetic tape on the floor and have sensors that make them stop if a person or object stand in its way. So far the robots have been clocking several kilometers a day traveling around the hospital performing errands.
Hospital officials said that the robots have already proved invaluable by speeding up deliveries, reducing errors and freeing up human employees for other tasks.
“These robotic nurses has greatly improved the efficiency and performance of working in the hospital, (but)they are not being used to reduce the number of employees,” Mongkutwattana hospital director Dr. Riantong pointed out.
Riantong added that they are looking towards expanding the robot nurses’ responsibilities by placing them in the pharmacy to prepare drug dosages.
“There is also hope that they will be able to assist in the kitchen and help out with the laundry,” he added.
Mongkutwattana is just one example of robots being utilized in health care in Thailand.
“These days, they are doing almost everything from making deliveries to performing surgery in hospital around the world. With rising costs, aging populations and shortages in the workforce, things like robot nurses will become a necessity rather than a novelty,” Riantong disclosed.