Local News

Chair-A-Table Reduces Injuries To Patients, Health-Care Workers

Posted June 28, 2006 6:21 a.m. EDT

— When health-care workers have to lift disabled patients, they can bruise or tear tender skin and break weak bones. It can also cause back problems for the workers. A Rocky Mount dermatologist retired early to focus on solving that problem.

A doctor's office should be a safe place for disabled patients, but Dr. Willis Martin said it is not safe when nurses have to lift them up to the exam table.

"Every step is subject to disaster, for both the staff and the patient," he said.

Martin dreamed up the Chair-a-Table, or charitable. For example, if a patient is wheeled in from a car to the examination room, normally, that patient would have to leave the chair to get on the table.

"They never actually get out of their chair. They're never moved," Martin said.

Martin's wife, Myra, backed a special wheelchair onto the lowered table. It is locked in place. North Carolina State University bioengineering students helped come up with the design, including the car door locks that hold the seat in place.

"It's held in place with 5,000 pounds of force," Martin said.

Foot controls lift the patient as high as 40 inches. Then, the wheels are removed and the chair back and foot rest become a flat exam table. Martin said he believes his invention will reduce injuries for patients and the health-care workers who have to lift them.

"A nurse lifts approximately 1.8 tons per shift," Martin said. "People are getting heavier, probably 10 percent or so per year."

When the chair is back together and rolled away, a single cushion makes the table ready for any patient. It is the only Chair-a-Table so far. It is a prototype that Martin hopes to mass produce and market across the country and around the world.

"I believe this will become the standard of care for every physician," he said.

Martin also has plans to use the same technology to make it easier for people in wheelchairs to board buses.

Hospitals have mechanisms that involve putting extremely overweight patients in a big sheet, lifted at the corners with straps, that picks them up and swings them over to a table. That is part of what inspired Martin. He said his method restores dignity to the patient.