March 23, 2006

Local Manufacturer Building Prototype for New Hygienicare Disability RV

Longhorn Conversions trailer fabricators and health care for the disabled aren’t two terms that go hand-in-hand. Well, they weren’t. But if a Kansas businessman has anything to do with it, that may change soon.

Jerald P. Skinner, founder and CEO of Hygienicare, was in Memphis, March 15th to take possession of the prototype Travel/Home Recreational Vehicle that was manufactured at Longhorn Conversions in Memphis. The local builders outfitted the inside of the 24-foot long trailer, complete with a queen-size bed, kitchenette and a Hygienicare all-in-one disability bath. Included is a Sure Hands wall-to-wall lift system that gives a wheelchair bound individual easy accessibility to the one-lift toilet, shower or lavatory as well as the bed.

“There is considerable contrast when thinking about the RVers in wheelchairs, they simply don’t appear to be workable together,” says Skinner. “Wheelchairs are restrictive and limit the mobility of an individual, while RV connotes freedom of movement and unlimited access to travel. However, there is a common thread for all individuals, and that is to have your own things when you are traveling, such as your bed and bathroom.”

But while this prototype might appeal to handicapped individuals that wish to travel and enjoy a recreational vehicle or camper setting, the real market for this market first may come as low-cost housing to replace or at least prolong the need for long-term care for elderly or handicapped individuals.

“The future of long-term care for the disabled is dependent upon portable home additions equipped for wheelchair mobility within,” Skinner stated.

He noted this type of system would allow us to keep family members out of nursing homes or rehabilitation centers longer.

This has made the project attractive to insurance companies as well as government, particularly Medicaid and Medicare. Skinner explained that these organizations will save a tremendous amount of money utilizing the disability RV instead of, for example, having to pay for a person left wheelchair bound by an auto accident, to live in a care center facility or rehabilitation center. The company owner estimated that the RV trailer will cost as little as 1/3 as much as housing a patient in existing long-term care.

But the trailers also will save the consumers money as well.

Skinner pointed out the high cost of rehabilitating an existing home or constructing an addition to a residence to allow wheelchair accessibility. He noted that these types of projects are extremely expensive, with the homeowner rarely recouping the costs when the property is sold.

That’s one of the highlights of the Hygienicare Disability RV. Skinner stated his company plans to offer affordable lease packages, likely up to 15 years in length. Those who do buy a trailer outright will have the financial security of knowing the trailer will maintain its resell value, particularly due to the mobility, making it attractive to families in similar situations across the nation.

“There have been a wide variety of prospective customers that expressed interest in our product” Skinner said. “It is definitely going to be hard to keep up with the demand, initially.”

Skinner stated business projections have estimated annual demand for the disability RV as high as 7,500 units per year. Obviously the initial output isn’t going to reach that level but Skinner added that plans are underway to ramp up production to significantly high levels in the near future. He stated that within 30 to 45 days he hopes to have manufacturing up and running.

Longhorn Conversions became associated with the project through a mutual business associate. Hygienicare purchases the specially made trailers from Sharp Manufacturers in Kansas. That same company has used Longhorn Conversions for several other interior projects and recommended the Memphis manufacturer to Skinner.

The Hygienicare all-in-one disability bath, a main component for the RV, is currently being built by CG Industries in Grain Valley, MO, where plans are already underway to expand the facility.

“This is just the first, of what we hope will be several different models for the Hygienicare Disability RV,” Skinner said. “We envision that this prototype is going to change health care dramatically.”

Economic Development Director Dr. Harlo Donelson, is one of many local parties that believe this project could change the community drastically as well.

Donelson praised the work done by the company to complete the prototype and expressed optimism that continued growth in the manufacturing of the disability RV could lead to further local economic growth.

“We’ve been working closely with Randy and Jason Emel at Longhorn Conversions and will continue our efforts to help them in any way we can to meet this challenge,” Donelson stated. “This could be huge for Scotland County.”

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