Tue, Aug 23, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Taipei Hospital offering custom-made wheelchairs

BY JEAN LIN  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Rehabilitation Center of Taipei Veterans General Hospital has begun offering wheelchairs specially designed for specific users.

The hospital is one of the first in the country to have a specialized wheelchair clinic to assemble and model the chairs. Special padding and adjustable parts are used to meet the specific measurements and needs of the chair's user.

The standard wheelchair is not made to fit all patients and often causes problems such as spinal-cord injuries from slouching, said Huang Ping-hsun (黃炳勳), director of the Rehabilitation Center.

The wheelchair designs offer a range of seat sizes that can support patients ranging in size from 150cm to 190cm and from 40kg to 120kg, said Dr. Chen Ming-chi (曾明基), who works at the center.

The average wheelchair can support a maximum of 80kg, Chen said.

The specially modified wheelchairs can be obtained with a doctor's prescription as well as a therapist's evaluation.

Measurements are taken and then a wheelchair is designed according to the person's injuries or disabilities, including specific types of padding, adjustable parts and cushioned handles.

Custom-made wheelchairs usually take around three days to a week to assemble, but the hospital says it can provide the finished product in under three hours.

Old wheelchairs can be restructured, Huang said, although this is not advisable because the structure may need such drastic alterations that the original wheelchair is no longer sturdy enough.

The price of a new custom-made wheelchair ranges from NT$17,000 to NT$27,000, Huang said, which is cheap when compared to the cost of imported wheelchairs, which can cost as much as NT$100,000 (US$3,107).

Subsidies are also available from the Department of Health if needed, Huang said.

"This innovation is just what patients need," Chen said.

"They can't walk, but now they can at least move around with comfort," Chen said.

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