Pneumatic Tube Transport makes comeback at Czech hospitals

Pneumatic Tube Transport in Motol Hospital, photo: Filip Jandourek

Pneumatic Tube Transport or potrubní pošta as it is known in Czech is making a comeback at hospitals in Prague and also other parts of the Czech Republic. Facilities are either revamping existing networks or building new systems to send and receive material such as blood samples or in some cases medicine, which saves both time and money.

Pneumatic Tube Transport in Motol Hospital,  photo: Filip Jandourek
One facility which has an efficient system up-and-running is the University Hospital in Motol in the district of Prague 6. Blood samples are placed in cylindrical containers which are then sent through the system using compressed air. The containers, or capsules, travel at a speed of 10 metres per second and – in Motol – arrive at one of 200 stations within minutes. Some 4,000 of the capsules are sent using the pneumatic post each and every day, each tagged with a chip which makes it possible to track. Motol Hospital technician Martin Rada:

“There are around 18 kilometres of tubing throughout the hospital complex. But the whole system is constantly changing and it is still a work in progress.”

The Municipal Hospital na Bulovce, also in Prague, had its own system it used in the past, which was scrapped several years ago. It too plans to introduce a new network to simplify deliveries among its many buildings. Without a functioning network, it has until now had to rely on personnel regularly making deliveries on site. Driver Lukáš Fiala:

“Na Bulovce has 26 buildings and deliveries are made during the day, night, weekends and holidays. Non-stop.”

It is still possible to see the former network, from the 1980s which should soon be replaced at the cost of around 12 million crowns. Martin Šalek showed the spot on Czech TV.

Pneumatic Tube Transport in Motol Hospital,  photo: Filip Jandourek
“This was one of 20 or so delivery spots which existed before and stopped being used about eight years ago. The new system should see improvements: it will be used not just to transport samples but also cytostatic medicine.”

Not just hospitals in Prague are planning on reintroducing the pneumatic post: a facility in Olomouc, public broadcaster Czech TV noted, is planning to introduce the largest such system in the country. The first pneumatic tubes were introduced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries but if Czech medical facilities are any indication, they are still very useful today.