New tube system for Westmead
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Posted 12 Sep 2016
Mita Dey, Technical Assistant Pathology West, Westmead, shows us a carrier for the existing PTS


Pneumatic tube systems (PTS) are often used in hospitals, including Westmead Hospital and The Children’s Hospital at Westmead. The system at Westmead is due for an upgrade and a number of options are being considered.

Neil Catlett, Director of Operations at Pathology West, said, “Pneumatic tube systems have been around since the 1800’s in many forms—from transporting mail underneath New York, to pushing trains through tunnels and transferring money in banks and stores. Modern PTS systems include intelligent technologies that can prioritise and actively determine the fastest routes to get diagnostic samples to the laboratory for testing. Given that some samples require very fast results, this system is a must for large hospitals and precincts like Westmead.”

“To get samples from many areas to us in Pathology, they are placed in sealed capsules, referred to as carriers. These carriers are air propelled through a tube system which snakes through roof systems, walls and underground. The samples can travel very fast over large distances—much faster than a human could carry them.”

The Westmead Redevelopment project team are working with the current users of the pneumatic tube system to develop a more efficient and integrated system.

A system design workshop was held on Monday 8 August 2016, and another will follow soon. The August session was attended by staff from Western Sydney Local Health District, The Sydney Children’s Hospital Network, Institute of Clinical Pathology and Medical Research (ICPMR), Health Infrastructure and the Westmead Redevelopment.

This group is looking at advanced systems that could be installed in the existing spaces and within the acute services building. New systems are more efficient and will free up staff to perform other tasks. The new systems could include these features:

  • Radio-frequency identification (RFID) - Barcoding technology to identify, track and trace the tubes as they progress through the system.
  • Automated loading and unloading potential - It includes the ability for the carriers to be automatically unloaded, opened, emptied, closed and returned to their origin.
  • Controlled speed settings for blood product and plasma requirements - The system speeds up and slows down to prevent issues with blood samples during the transport process which might cause the sample to deteriorate.
  • Prioritisation – Urgent samples jump ahead of others depending upon the settings inputted at the start of the journey. They system also can incorporate minimum wait times so samples are not ‘parked’ for too long.
  • Leak resistant capsules -New seal systems help to prevent leaks and spills during transport. They could potentially transport infections substances while reducing contamination risks.

From the web

Read about the fascinating history of pneumatic tube systems: