Building Treatment Capacity to Respond to COVID-19 within an Innovative Business Model
The UMOYA project was born during the COVID-19 pandemic and the realization that there is a large gap in South Africa (as in other developing countries) in the provision of respiratory care and treatment necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic. The desire to help alleviate this shortage of respiratory care and treatment led a core group of individuals to voluntarily use their diverse skills, experience, and capabilities to establish a collaborative network across South Africa. The initial gap was foreseen by our team’s doctors Craig Parker and Brendan Toy, who are based at the ICU and anaesthetic departments of state hospitals in the Eastern Cape. Their input, together with medical Professors and medical colleagues during design and testing was critical to our developing a viable solution.
The team consists of mechanical engineers, doctors, mechanical designers, systems engineering experts, and 3D printing experts. The proof of this team’s capability is the agile approach that has been able to rapidly iterate through multiple concepts and designs to come up with a working prototype within 2 weeks and a finalized design within 7 weeks.
Our assessment of the longer term was that we could only make a sustainable impact if we generated our own funds through our products and services. A donor funded organisation was not the future we wanted. Consequently, Umoya was constituted as a for-profit, social enterprise but one where our Memorandum of Incorporation dictates that 100% of our profits must be used for developing the business or donated to improving health care. We do not distribute dividends to shareholders.
The Umoya Journey
Umoya’s first goal was to address the gaps in respiratory therapy that we identified would be problematic during COVID-19 in South Africa and other low-resource environments. Initially we aligned ourselves with the National Ventilator Project which focused on the design and development of ventilators but as our design work progressed our doctors soon realised that good clinical outcomes could be achieved using simpler, more affordable designs.
Our philosophy was to design simple mechanical components that could be rapidly evaluated using 3D printing and subsequently taken to scale employing standard manufacturing processes. By combining these with readily available off-the-shelf components we could produce effective yet simple, robust and easy to use products which would be ideal for use in developing countries and communities.
Our thinking was driven by the current reality that not everyone has access to the best available health care during the times of a pandemic such as Covid-19. Tackling a global challenge of such magnitude is best achieved in small steps and producing a device such as the OxERATM which raises the ceiling of therapy offered by low resourced healthcare facilities is one such step.
By adopting a social enterprise model, we offer a different business approach which we hope can make an impact in the health care sector and beyond.
UMOYA’s solutions are about bridging some of the gaps in current health care therapy and providing cost-effective alternatives to, but not replacing, costly and/or sophisticated technology. These solutions are cognisant of the infrastructure and staffing constraints typically available in low resource settings but still have broad appeal in all clinical facilities. At the outset of the coronavirus infections in South Africa we aimed to develop solutions that would reduce the load on the limited ICU facilities and could be used in field and district hospitals and reduce the number of patients requiring escalation to ICU in major centres.
We saw early on that oxygen supply would become one of the biggest requirements in treating Covid-19 patients and that oxygen availability in many hospitals and clinics was constrained. We brought oxygen supply and efficiency of use into our design thinking and into our work.
OxERA™ device – 100% O2 via accumulator bag with adjustable PEEP.
Adjustable PEEP valves.
PRODUCTS UNDER DEVELOPMENT
- A range of accessories OxERA™ to enhance it’s use.
Portable robust oxygen generating systems.
Empty oxygen cylinder alarm.
Improved hospital beds.
CONSULTING SERVICES AND PROJECT MANAGEMENT
We offer a limited range of project management, training and consulting services focussed on finding solutions and removing barriers in community health care.
These include the development of new products and the supply of oxygen.
Innovation Time Line
17 MARCH 2020
Dr Craig Parker conceives specification while coming back from UK before the flight ban.
20 MARCH 2020
Call for Collaboration
Together we can. Dr Craig Parker puts out request for engineering, 3D printing, and hydraulics capability for the team.
26 MARCH 2020
Dr Craig Parker demonstrated to the team a simple CPAP device using a diving CV.
27 MARCH 2020
Alex and Frans each designed, and 3D printed different concepts for a pressure support valve.
1 APRIL 2020
2nd Stage Design
LT presented the 2nd Stage pressure regulator based on the concept of a diving DV.
2 APRIL 2020
Final Alpha Concept
Modifications and multiple versions to come up with a final alpha conceptfor a reciprocal valve.
3 APRIL 2020
Reciprocal valve tested with the correct fittings.
4 APRIL 2020
Peer review of Beta by various clinicians and switch to manometer/blower based solution instead of blender/regulator solution.
5 APRIL 2020
Submission of Beta Design
Submission of Beta design to the Department of Technology, Innovation and Competition as part of the SA governments call for proposals.
18 APRIL 2020
Second Round of NVP Evaluation
The Umoya teams solutions for a non-invasive ventilator and alternative air supply are through to the next round of evaluation as part of the governments NVP programme.
1 JULY 2020
As a result of clinical feedback, Umoya has quickly modified the Venturi concept to allow for a 100% oxygen supply with adjustable peep. This will assist patients requiring oxygen support plus maintaining pressure to keep their lungs from collapsing during expiration.
17 JULY 2020
In just 3 weeks our “oxygen with peep” device has already undergone many refinements to include an anti-asphyxiation valve (to allow the patient to breath supplemental air if the oxygen supply is insufficient or ceases), a viral filter closer to the patient, and a smaller adjustable body for patient comfort.
3 DECEMBER 2020
PEEPO to OxERA™(Oxygen Efficient Respiratory Aid)
Further refinements to previous versions have resulted from both Umoya’s innovative engineers and feedback from clinicians. These include a smaller anti asphyxiation valve, a compact oxygen bag/housing connection, a new improved adjustable PEEP, and a better elastic harness.