Ventilation system developed through collaboration

A collaborative group has successfully designed three integrated standalone non-invasive ventilation systems for Covid-19 sufferer's

BREATH EASY A collaborative group has successfully designed three integrated standalone non-invasive ventilation systems for Covid-19 sufferer's

12th June 2020

By: Halima Frost

Senior Writer


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The Umoya Project, headed up by a collaborative group of South African medical doctors, mining engineers, three-dimensional printers and system thinking volunteers, has successfully designed three integrated standalone non-invasive ventilation systems.

The Umoya Project’s solutions only require electricity to provide early treatment for Covid-19 patients.

The design manifesto speaks to low-tech, low-cost solutions that have immediate impact and can provide early treatment. The solutions are also meant to offer alternative support during peak infection rates.

In March, Umoyo Project lead doctor and mechanical engineer Dr Craig Parker had the idea for a non-invasive solution that could be used for early treatment to save lives. He says the idea came to him while flying home to South Africa from the UK.

“Why wait for the lung deterioration of Covid-19 patients to get so bad that the only solution is invasive ventilation? Rather design solutions that can intervene early and save lives,” Parker recalls thinking.

With a need for engineering support, infrastructure and innovation methodologies to scale the idea Parker put out a call for collaboration in March.

The mining community and fellow doctors responded, and within days the Umoya Project was created within the same month. 

This concept for the non-invasive solution inspired a broader collaboration with product solutions facilitators Covid Agile Solutions Group, medical equipment and supplies company Gabler Medical and private-public programme headed by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition the National Tooling Initiative Programme.

Within ten weeks of its inception the team was preparing for the production of ventilation devices.

The product uses a portable air supply that can plug into hospital mains or be used independently in remote areas. The design allows for rapid treatment and is easy to set up and use.

Peer review has seen the products being dubbed a “game changer in the treatment of lung diseases”.

The next step for the Umoya Project is to develop and formalise partnerships with companies and agencies that have operations across Africa.

Further, “we are very active in developing awareness and information across Africa with the goal of communities in emerging markets having access to integrated standalone non-invasive low-cost ventilation systems,” says Umoya Project strategy lead Harry Sinko.

He adds that, “the group is overwhelmed by the support the Umoya Project has received from its peers within the mining sector and beyond”.

Consulting engineering group Hatch is already on board and has been working with the Umoya Project in formalising its Africa strategy.

Sinko concludes that the Umoya Project is also working with engineers, medical and safety professionals, mining managers, business executives, innovation hubs and creative talent from across South Africa – all wanting to help make a difference during the pandemic.

Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor


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