Colombian businessman makes hospital bed-coffin combo to serve COVID-19 dead

BOGOTA – Disturbing images of bodies of dozens of coronavirus victims awaiting burial on the streets of Ecuador’s largest city, Guayaquil, have motivated a businessman in neighboring Colombia to design something he hopes would occur in a similar scenario in other countries: hospital beds that can be converted into coffins.

The Colombian health system has so far not been overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients – the country is due to quarantine at the end of two months – but the pandemic has caused overcrowding in hospitals and funeral homes elsewhere.

Rodolfo Gomez, whose company ABC Displays usually produces marketing materials, feared that his country’s health system would be overloaded at some point and designed the cardboard bed boxes.

“We saw what happened in Ecuador, that people brought dead relatives to the streets … no matter what happens, the funeral services collapse with the pandemic,” said Gomez, 44. “So we started developing a bed that could be turned into a coffin.”

The beds have metal railings, wheels with brakes and can be tilted up and down. They can support up to 330 lbs. He said the biodegradable coffins cost between $ 92 and $ 132.

Rodolfo Gomez, manager of the “ABC Display” company, demonstrates how a hospital bed the company makes is transformed into a cardboard box amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Bogota, Colombia, May 21, 2020.

LUISA GONZALEZ /

REUTERS

Gomez hopes that their low costs mean that local and provincial governments can provide rural or underfunded hospitals for cheap. Converting to coffins when a patient dies will also reduce potential contamination, he said.

“Once the bodies are prepared, it is converted into a coffin and covered,” said Gomez at his factory in Bogota, which can produce up to 3,000 beds per month. “The employees in the neighborhood are not exposed to biological risks.”

The first bed boxes are donated to the hospital in Leticia, a Colombian city in the Amazon region with a large number of cases and a limited hospital capacity.

Gomez says he has already spoken to potential buyers in Peru, Chile, Brazil, Mexico and the United States.

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