Avensys has demonstrated its broad-ranging capabilities and expertise in the procurement, purchase, storage, supply, and installation of new medical devices, and the sale of surplus-to-requirements EBME equipment, in a £1 m contract recently successfully completed for not-for-profit healthcare provider, Healthcare Management Trust (HMT), at its new £25 m Sancta Maria Hospital in Swansea’s SA1 waterfront district.
The Healthcare Management Trust, a not-for-profit healthcare specialist which owns and operates the new £25 m Sancta Maria Hospital in Swansea’s SA1 waterfront district, was registered with the Charity Commission in 1985. The hospital’s roots go back considerably further, however – to 1958, when surgeons, Mr Tanner and Mr Cellan-Jones joined forces with Ursulines of Jesus nuns to take over the former Brunswick Nursing Home on a site in Uplands in Swansea and turn it into a sixbed private nursing hospital, renaming it Sancta Maria.
Significant subsequent milestones included the completion of a larger premises combining Sancta Maria with the neighbouring Mirador in 1962 – with a new operating theatre and more patient rooms, the ‘gifting’ in 1980 of the hospital’s first X-ray unit, and the hospital’s role changing, in 1983, from principally providing care to the elderly, to offering medical care services to a wider patient group. In 1988 HMT invested £500,000 on improvements and equipment. Several expansions and improvements took place at the Uplands site over the years, but around three years ago – in recognition that some of the existing buildings were no longer fit-for-purpose – plans were developed for a new, purpose-built premises in Swansea. The site chosen for the new private hospital and diagnostics unit was Lamberts Road in Swansea’s waterfront district.
Several ambitions for new hospital
In developing the new hospital, a key aim was to much improve the patient experience, with features including en-suite bedrooms, improved accessibility, a dedicated day surgery, and on-site parking. The new Sancta Maria Hospital, a modern-looking two storey building, was designed by the Cardiff office of architects, IBI Group, and built by Kier Regional Building West and Wales
Construction work started in early 2019, with the new facility handed over and admitting its first patients in February 2021. The new hospital offers a range of improved facilities, including on-site diagnostic equipment in the form of an MRI scanner and digital X-ray machine located in a ground floor Radiology Department. There are 12 en-suite patient bedrooms, three operating theatres, and a dedicated day surgery unit. The ground floor features a spacious reception area, a café, patient waiting areas, and administrative and clinical offices, while the surgical facilities and wards are on the upper floor.
A local supply chain Kier worked with its local supply chain partners – over 75% of whose staff lived within a 50-mile radius – to deliver the project, and also provided training and job opportunities to the local community – including two bricklaying apprentices, one mechanical apprentice, and one electrical apprentice, plus a management trainee and a trainee quantity surveyor.
Tony Barrett, Chief Executive of HMT, said when the new healthcare facility opened: “The new hospital’s opening is a landmark event for us – a culmination of hard work and a determination to keep quality healthcare right here in Swansea. It is the result of extensive collaboration with our design team, Kier, local partners, the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD), our employees, and the entire community.”
HMT said in advance of the hospital’s official opening: “The hospital will be opening without the fanfare that everyone had expected when ground was broken in March 2019. While no one could have predicted the pandemic’s devastating and sustained impact, it has brought about an increased demand for private healthcare. HMT Sancta Maria Hospital has also worked with NHS Wales and Swansea Bay University Health Board throughout the pandemic, and is continuing a dialogue to offer support and to relieve some of the pressure that the NHS is currently experiencing.”
EBME equipment supply
A high priority for HMT early in the process was identifying and appointing a reliable, experienced supplier for the wide range of biomedical equipment the hospital would need. The chosen company would need to source and store equipment until it could be transported to site, and then install and commission the various devices – all at a competitive price – as well as subsequently maintaining and servicing them. It would also be tasked with removing, reconditioning, and then reselling, some of the surplus equipment at the ‘old’ Uplands site once staff had moved out of the hospital to their new home.
Avensys, the Kidderminster-based biomedical engineering specialist appointed to the contract, had the benefit of an established track record with HMT, having serviced and maintained a range of biomedical equipment at the ‘old’ Sancta Maria Hospital site for nearly a decade. With the charity’s Estates, Clinical, and management teams confident in the company’s abilities and expertise, Avensys was thus among the specialist engineering businesses approached to equip the new hospital with a range of new EBME equipment and furniture once staff had determined what they required, and to remove and re-sell items no longer needed from the old site. Thereafter this equipment was fully reconditioned and sold to other hospitals, both in the UK and overseas.
Resale manager, Francesca Stewart, explains that while in the early days, the servicing, maintenance, and repair of hospital EBME equipment was very much Avensys’s sole focus, the reconditioning and re-sale of surplus EBME equipment, short-to-medium term equipment storage for healthcare providers, and procuring and selling new OEM EBME equipment to healthcare facilities keen to use a ‘one-stop-shop’ supplier, are now all key activities for the business.
Avensys has three buildings at its Kidderminster HQ – accommodating offices, workshops, storage space, and training facilities – and has considerably expanded there over the past 3-4 years. A new base for its Resale Division opened a few miles away in Hartlebury in summer 2021, reflecting the significant ongoing growth in the Division’s activity. Francesca Stewart now heads a team of six, compared with just two staff four years ago. The Avensys Resale Service offers medical providers equipment collection, patient data removal, and liability transfer in the same way that an auction house would, but – in contrast to an auction house, where equipment is ‘sold as seen’ – Avensys sells the kit to its new owner with at least a three-month warranty and function guarantee.
‘Fit-for-purpose and safe’
The company explains: “Reconditioning means that no matter where in the world your equipment ends up, it is fit for purpose and safe. Selling with a warranty also guarantees higher prices. Avensys Resale also has a global reach for equipment re-sale.”
Francesca Stewart explained that – as with the Healthcare Management Trust – many of its healthcare customers are private healthcare providers, often because NHS hospitals still have their own ‘in-house’ EBME engineers to maintain, service, and repair such equipment. “In fact,” she explained, as we resumed our discussion on how Avensys was selected to supply and install a range of EBME equipment and furniture to the new Sancta Maria Hospital, “we had an engineer dedicated to the old Sancta Maria site – who HMT staff, led by Hospital director, Geoff Bailey, could call upon at any time for help with equipment – for almost 10 years. The charity thus knows us extremely well. When the hospital’s Project Team came up with a list of desired EBME equipment, and put the contract out to tender, we were among those approached. We know that, with our considerable buying power with OEMs, price was among the factors which won us the job, but equally we know that HMT has been pleased with the service we have provided, and has complete faith in our expertise. Our engineer had looked after equipment ranging from infusion devices to patient monitors, operating tables, endoscopes, ventilators, and diathermy machines, at the old hospital.
“Thanks to our excellent ongoing relationship with HMT’s staff,” she continued, “we were in fact invited to talk to the charity’s team about potentially supplying the new hospital 3-4 years ago, before the plans were really firmed up. Then, once they had compiled an equipment inventory, we were invited to tender.”
Having won the contract, an Avensys team led by Francesca Stewart held numerous meetings with HMT staff in Swansea to refine and narrow down the ‘package’ of equipment to be supplied. She said: “At one end of the spectrum, we supplied a range of clinical and non-clinical bins, and, at the other, anaesthetic machines, as part of a sizeable EBME equipment package. We also provided the hospital with a number of attractive high-quality furniture items for its Reception and waiting areas.”
As it transpired, the pandemic’s impact on the supply of a wide range of goods necessitated some careful co-ordination and regular liaison, including ‘virtual’ meetings with hospital staff to keep them appraised on the arrival of the various items. Francesca Stewart said: “Inevitably, there were one or two supply chain issues to deal with. However, having established a really good rapport with the HMT team over the years, all parties were kept fully informed, and the process generally went pretty smoothly.”
One of the HMT team’s requirements was for Avensys to consolidate and store the various items of medical equipment and furniture until the hospital – still under construction at this stage – was ready for it to be installed and commissioned. Francesca Stewart elaborated: “This was quite a complex logistical exercise, with equipment and furniture coming from different suppliers in many locations, and items arriving at different speeds on different days, while we were simultaneously still co-ordinating the order process. We have some 22,000 ft2 of equipment storage space in our Hartlebury facility, but the latter has only been available since June 2021, so all the items for the new Sancta Maria Hospital were stored at our HQ. On receipting any equipment when we received it in Kidderminster, we immediately labelled it with its destination floor and room number, which saved considerable time and complexity when we delivered and installed all the items, which was undertaken over a week-long period in January 2021.”
Once the equipment destined for the new Sancta Maria Hospital had been loaded onto Avensys’s 18-tonne trucks in Kidderminster, it was transported to Swansea, unloaded, and then taken into the hospital and installed by the Resale team. The installation took about a week, working with the hospital’s own engineer, and number of HMT’s clinical and Estates and Facilities staff. Francesca Stewart said: “We worked some long days – often from 6.00 am to 6.00 pm – and had to coordinate the delivery and installation working alongside the builders and sub-contractors, as some work was still ongoing. It was a great team effort, and this was recognised by the Hospital director, Geoff Bailey, who expressed his gratitude at the end of the process for how hard we had all worked to get the job done. During parts of the installation process we were also liaising closely with staff at the new hospital who had already re-located from the Uplands site to ensure we put equipment precisely where it was required.
“The new hospital has excellent access and a dedicated loading area, from which we were able to take large items for the first floor straight up in a lift. On the ground floor are the main Reception, offices, patient waiting areas, a café, and the Radiology Department, while the first floor houses three theatres, Recovery, and the patient bedrooms. The extensive and meticulous planning, and the close liaison we had with the hospital’s management team and multidisciplinary clinical staff, helped simplify and streamline the whole process. We have always enjoyed an open and transparent working relationship with HMT, and it was great to be able to further strengthen the partnership on this project.”
Removing surplus equipment
The Avensys Resale team subsequently returned to the now vacant hospital in Uplands two months later to collect some of the surplus equipment before taking the items to Kidderminster for reconditioning and subsequent re-sale. Francesca Stewart said: “Some of the equipment – such as examination couches – was relatively new, but for instance, certain furniture and other items wouldn’t match the colour scheme or décor of the new hospital, so became surplus to requirements.
“Once we get unwanted EBME equipment back to our Kidderminster workshops, it is comprehensively overhauled, software updated, and components replaced where necessary, so that it is in full working order prior to sale. We re-sell and ship a wide range of reconditioned EBME devices to healthcare facilities as far afield as Australia and the Far East, not only saving the purchasers money, but also giving the buyer an assurance that the equipment is fully functional and safe. Equally, the selling hospital knows where its surplus equipment is heading, and that it won’t end up with some unsuspecting end-client in a faulty or non-compliant state with nobody having tested it before dispatch.”
Francesca Stewart said of her team’s work: “I think it’s important to stress that Avensys Resale began life reselling surplus, secondhand medical devices, which is still our core activity. However, as this project for Swansea’s new Sancta Maria Hospital shows, the capabilities of Avensys as a whole have expanded massively in the past 3-5 years, and within the Resale Division we now sell hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of new medical equipment, as well as pre-owned equipment. We also offer equipment financing, leasing, and rental, and, more recently, have seen growing demand from decommissioned Nightingale hospitals for us to maintain and store equipment under a ‘managed solutions’ agreement – for instance keeping batteries charged so that in the event of a rapid call-off should COVID-19 cases spike again, the equipment can be deployed at short notice to wherever it is required.”
Francesca Stewart added that in instances where staff at a healthcare facility had only an outline idea of what new equipment it might require, the company’s engineers could make recommendations of specific devices and accessories, considering the full list costs of servicing and accessories and spare parts. She added: “As a leading EBME equipment re-seller we tend to have strong negotiating power, as well as excellent current product knowledge. The latter can be especially useful to hospitals if a clinical or Estates team is not fully up to speed with technology in a particular field. Much of the time equipment choice is consultant-led, and with private hospitals often sharing consultants who also do NHS work, it needs to fit with what the local NHS Trust is using.
“We strive to offer buyers of both secondhand and new EBME equipment value for money, and of course – as with HMT – our engineers can maintain and service the equipment, help users maximise its potential, and quickly diagnose any fault and repair it fast should it break down. Our aim is to offer a real ‘360 degree’ service.”
Complimented on a highly professional job
She added: “This approach was – we feel – ably demonstrated on the new Sancta Maria Hospital contract where, working with manufacturers such as Arjo, GE, and Dräger, we were complimented on the professional manner in which we undertook this supply and logistics element of the project. The hospital is now fully open, and we will continue to provide maintenance and repair services for all of Sancta Maria’s medical devices, as well as device resale and procurement consultation services. It was a great project to work on, and its successful completion gave us much satisfaction.”
Geoff Bailey, Hospital director, Sancta Maria Hospital, added: “Prior to the opening of the new Sancta Maria hospital in Swansea, Avensys UK supplied both medical and non-medical equipment, logistics and planning solutions, and consultation services. They have been instrumental in the organisation and delivery of the project, always working with great communication and diligence.”