Mandela University engineers take their work to theatre

14/04/2020

With the Covid-19 pandemic hitting South Africa and starting to take root in the Eastern Cape, medical staff at the local Livingstone Hospital are under enormous strain.

The Advanced Engineering Design Group (AEDG) at Nelson Mandela University received an urgent appeal from anaesthetist Dr Lorenzo Boretti through orthopaedic surgeon Dr Bryan Theunissen, regarding challenges faced by the in-theatre anaesthesia teams in their Covid theatre. In an effort to assist, the AEDG put together a project aimed at helping to protect healthcare workers at the frontline who rely heavily on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

The challenge is to contain aerosolised droplets from patients with possible Covid-19 virus infection during procedures to ensure that the theatre staff assisting in the operation are minimally exposed to these droplets.

The AEDG team as well as multiple contributors from their network of both academic and private sector experts, immediately started an online process of working on a possible solution to the challenge.

Initial information was difficult to come by as the medical staff at Livingstone are constantly on call dealing with the crisis, so a basic set-up was ultimately agreed upon as a starting point which could be updated as more information came to hand. An initial conceptual idea was sent through by Dr Theunissen.

This work-in-progress is being updated continually and the team are now at a point where their initial design has gone into its 3rd version, with the previous version tested in-theatre this week. There has been some interest shown from hospitals in East London and Kwa Zulu-Natal via their network of contacts and it is anticipated that there will be further expansion.

This team effort is an excellent University collaboration example with the AEDG Team (Clive Hands, Dr William Rall, Zaahid Imran, Jode Fourie, Daniel Trask, Sthuthi Varghese, Blessed Tembo, Charl Rossouw and  Zain Imran) working with colleagues from eNtSA (Prof Danie Hattingh, Riaan Opperman, Riaan Brown), the Faculty of Engineering; the Built Environment and Technology as a whole (Prof Ben van Wyk, Gideon Gouws, Prof Farouk Smith, Dr Anne Lourens, Prof Hannalie Lombard, Mervin Knoesen and Amish Lalla), the University’s Medical School (Philipp Hoelzer and Dr Elizabeth du Toit) and Innoventon’s Dr Shawn Gouws.

To view videos images of the project as well step-by-step processes and updates, visit the AEDG’s website at https://aedg.mandela.ac.za/Projects/Intubation-Box