01/27/2015 06:12 EST | Updated 01/27/2015 06:59 EST

Robotic 'Turtles' Will Deliver Hospital Supplies Using Their Own Highway

Anne-Louise Despatie via

Staff at a massive new hospital in Montreal won't have to walk nearly as far during their shifts, thanks to dozens of small robots that will roam the building.

The Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM), which is currently under construction, will be the first hospital in Canada to use a special robot "highway" to move medication, garbage and even patients' food, according to Le Journal de Montreal.

The automated vehicles, stored in the hospital’s basement, will use their own elevators to deliver supplies throughout the 26-floor building. The little robots will supposedly be able to make it from one end of the hospital to the other in 16 minutes.

“Patients and visitors will never see them,” Jacques Morency, managing partner of the construction project, told Le Journal.

There will be 70 robots operating in the new complex, making 3,500 trips a day, Metro Montreal reports. The robots have been referred to as "turtles" because they slip underneath carts to carry them to their destination. The "turtles" also follow a guided path using magnets underneath the floor and scan barcodes to make sure they're grabbing the right item.

Morency told Metro the new technology will help staff focus on "value-added" tasks and prevent contamination.

It's unknown how much the system will cost.

This isn't the first example of robots changing hospital workflow. A hospital in San Francisco is the latest to roll out a fleet of 25 fridge-like robots, called Eve, that will carry heavy equipment and other items around the facility. The University of California, San Francisco Medical Center at Mission Bay will join almost 160 other hospitals in deploying the machines, according to CNET.

Many hospital pharmacies also use an automated system called Robot-Rx that dispenses and restocks medications using barcodes, freeing up pharmacists for other jobs.

The CHUM superhospital is expected to be built by next year in order to open in 2017, according to Radio-Canada.

The nearly $2-billion project has been controversial because of cost overruns as well as the extravagant salary paid to its former executive director.


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