Hospital Curtains vs. Medical Privacy Screens – Capital & Operational Costs

The subject of cost ranks high with hospital facilities and estates managers, and this is important when we consider the burden that the current pandemic is putting on their finances.

As the winter brings seasonal flu, norovirus, and season-related injuries and medical complications, we can anticipate these costs will rise further.

So maybe this is a good place to begin our debate.

To compare the relative costs of hospital curtains and medical privacy screens, we turned to independent research carried out on these products within the healthcare sector.

The study amortised capital expenditure over six years and based ongoing cost calculations on the curtains or screens being cleaned once a month. It also considered a third option – disposable hospital curtains – which would be replaced monthly.

Capital costs – Purchase and Installation

The initial outlay for hospital curtains was found by the researchers to be similar for the washable and disposable types. But while medical privacy screens cost almost four times as much as curtains, by the time the installation costs were added, the total investment dropped to just one and a half times that of curtains.

However, as screens are substantially more durable, they are less likely to need repair or replacement. Their modular design also means that if there is any damage, only the affected panel needs to be replaced.

Screens will therefore quickly repay this modest additional investment and reap the benefits of lower ongoing maintenance costs.

Operational Costs – Cleaning

One significant cost-saving feature of medical screens is that they can be cleaned easily and quickly, in situ and at floor level, using conventional cleaning and antibacterial chemicals.

Hospital curtains are not so easy. Unhanging and rehanging generally require access steps. Washable curtains need to be transported to another location for cleaning, washed, and then returned. Even disposable curtains need to be removed for safe disposal or incineration. All these processes take time and incur costs.

The research concluded that it costs 7.5 times as much to clean curtains as to clean screens while replacing disposable curtains costs 6.4 times as much.

Total Costs in Real Terms

By writing off the capital investment over six years and combining it with the cleaning costs during that period, the research revealed the total cost of installing and maintaining medical privacy screens was just 57.6% of washable hospital curtains and 68.9% of disposable hospital curtains.

Costs not Included

While studying the results of this research, we realised that some costs may have been omitted.

For example, there was no record of repair and maintenance costs. As we have already mentioned, screens are so much more durable than curtains that they are less likely to suffer damage.

We also observed that the results made no reference to the cost of disposal or incineration of used disposable curtains.

Another factor that can indirectly have a financial impact on hospital facilities management is the risk of contamination and cross-infection, but that is another subject we will be covering later in this series.