Building treatment capacity to respond to Covid-19 with an innovative business model

The UMOYA project originated during the COVID-19 pandemic when it became apparent that there was a significant gap in the provision of respiratory care and treatment in South Africa, as well as in other developing countries. Motivated by the desire to address this shortage, a dedicated group of individuals with diverse skills, experience, and capabilities voluntarily came together to establish a collaborative network across South Africa. The initial recognition of this gap came from our team’s doctors, Craig Parker and Brendan Toy, who were based in the ICU and anesthetic departments of state hospitals in the Eastern Cape. Their valuable input, along with the guidance of medical professors and colleagues throughout the design and testing process, was instrumental in developing a viable solution.

The team is comprised of mechanical engineers, doctors, mechanical designers, systems engineering experts, and 3D printing specialists. The team’s ability to rapidly iterate through multiple concepts and designs, resulting in a working prototype within 2 weeks and a finalized design within 7 weeks, is a testament to their expertise and agility.

In considering our long-term impact, we recognized that sustainability could only be achieved by generating our own funds through the sale of our products and services. We did not envision becoming a donor-funded organization. As a result, Umoya was established as a for-profit social enterprise, with our Memorandum of Incorporation stipulating that 100% of our profits must be reinvested in the business or donated to improving healthcare. We do not distribute dividends to shareholders.

The story of Umoya

Interview with Discovery

How it all started

Umoya’s initial objective was to address the gaps in respiratory therapy that we identified as problematic during the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa and other low-resource environments. Initially, we aligned ourselves with the National Ventilator Project, which focused on designing and developing ventilators. However, as our design work progressed, our doctors soon realised that simpler and more affordable designs could achieve good clinical outcomes.

Our philosophy revolved around designing straightforward mechanical components that could be rapidly evaluated using 3D printing and then scaled up through standard manufacturing processes. By combining these components with easily accessible off-the-shelf parts, we aimed to create effective, simple, robust, and user-friendly products that would be ideal for use in developing countries and communities.

We aimed to create effective, simple, robust, and user-friendly products that 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 healthcare during a pandemic such as COVID-19. We believed that tackling a global challenge of this magnitude requires taking small steps, and developing a device like the OxERA™, which improves the quality of therapy provided by low-resourced healthcare facilities, is one such step.

Umoya has expanded its product offering to provide context-appropriate and affordable solutions to some of the greatest medical needs on our continent. We will continue to reinvest profits to make more high-quality devices available in the low-resource environments where we operate.

By adopting a social enterprise model, we offer a different business approach that we hope can make a meaningful impact in the healthcare 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.

Consulting services & project management

We offer a range of project management, training and consulting services focussed on finding solutions and removing barriers in the delivery of community health care. These include the development of new cost effective medical devices, products and the supply of oxygen.

Here are some completed projects:

Training of health care Workings in eSwathini (in partnership with Right to Care NPO)

Right to Care procured several OxERA™ units for Swaziland and recognised the need for training to maximise their effectiveness during the Covid pandemic. Umoya compiled a concise training course, which was delivered over two days by one of the Umoya doctors. The training included a virtual session on the first day and in-person training in Eswatini on the second day.

During the training, attendees gained valuable experience in utilising the OxERA device for patient management, as well as broader insights from working in the ICU with Covid-positive patients. The training covered the assembly and use of the device, troubleshooting clinical scenarios related to its application, and highlighted its potential off-label use for non-Covid pneumonia patients, showcasing interesting case examples.

The attendees left the training feeling empowered with the skills necessary to maximise the effectiveness of the OxERA device in their clinical practice. We extend our gratitude to Right to Care for making this training opportunity possible.

The design, supply, installation and on-going support of a PSA Oxygen Generation Plant at Madwaleni Hospital, Eastern Cape

There are numerous hospitals located in remote areas that provide critical healthcare services to large and dispersed rural communities. However, operating these facilities comes with various challenges, including the reliable supply of essential lifesaving consumables, such as oxygen. In such settings, the availability of oxygen often relies on the delivery of expensive oxygen cylinders, which need to traverse long distances, often on poor roads. The Madwaleni Hospital in the Eastern Cape was one such hospital facing these difficulties.

Recognising the situation, the Umoya team collaborated with the management of Madwaleni Hospital and the Eastern Cape Department of Health to identify the pressing need for on-site oxygen generation, not just during the Covid crisis but also in the long term. To address this need, the Umoya team formed a funding and support partnership with Right to Care NPO and USAID. Over a period of five months, from August to December 2021, the Umoya team took charge of the project, which involved designing, constructing, delivering, and commissioning a containerised pressure swing adsorption (PSA) oxygen manufacturing plant. Additionally, the team provided training to the hospital staff on operating the plant safely and effectively.

The PSA oxygen manufacturing plant operates continuously, ensuring a steady supply of affordable oxygen directly to the main ward, while also enabling the filling of cylinders for use in other wards and satellite clinics. Umoya remotely monitors the plant’s performance and takes care of regular maintenance on behalf of Right to Care NPO, the current owner of the facility. Moreover, data is being collected to support the potential replication of this project at other rural hospitals, aiming to bring similar benefits to more communities in need.

Furthermore, the Umoya team is financing the development of additional facilities at Madwaleni Hospital to further enhance the quality of patient care.

Meet the team

Dr Craig Parker


Dr Brendan Toy


Trevor Rossouw


Dave Morris


Gary Lane


Harry Sinko


Antony Mello


Alex Rossouw


Frans-Meyer van der Merwe


Lindley Barkhuyzen


Tyran Tesmer


Innovation Time Line
17 MARCH 2020

Idea Inception

Dr Craig Parker conceives specification while coming back from UK before the flight ban.

Innovation Time Line
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.

Innovation Time Line
26 MARCH 2020

Concept Demo

Dr Craig Parker demonstrated to the team a simple CPAP device using a diving CV.

Innovation Time Line
27 MARCH 2020


Alex and Frans each designed, and 3D printed different concepts for a pressure support valve.

Innovation Time Line
1 APRIL 2020

2nd Stage Design

LT presented the 2nd Stage pressure regulator based on the concept of a diving DV.

Innovation Time Line
2 APRIL 2020

Final Alpha Concept

Modifications and multiple versions to come up with a final alpha concept for a reciprocal valve.

Previous slide
Next slide