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Umoya brings hope in fight against covid-19

A group of East London-based doctors, healthcare workers, engineers and entrepreneurs have designed a lifesaving gadget to provide oxygen to help with the alarming number of covid-19 patients.

The Oxygen-Efficient Respiratory Aid (OxERA) designed by the social enterprise Umoya (Nguni word for air) was established in March 2020 to deliver adequate amounts of oxygen to covid-19 patients in an efficient and low-cost way.

The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) has since approved the design. SAHPRA is an entity of the national department of health tasked with tasked with regulating,monitoring, evaluating, investigating, inspecting and registering all health products.

The Umoya collective is led by doctor Craig Parker who works in anaesthesiology and has a background in engineering.

This contraption was designed for emergency COVID-19 use, which will be manufactured and distributed by Gabler Medical. It is aimed at easing the load on the healthcare system.

As South African medical practitioners and healthcare workers brave the second wave of the novel coronavirus, the public health system has become overwhelmed with the number of coronavirus patients.

Minister of health Dr Zweli Mkhize announced on Saturday January 2021 that the total number of covid-19 infections in the country stood at 1 325 659.

“Regrettably, we report a further 384 COVID19 related deaths have been reported: Eastern Cape 39, Free State 12, Gauteng 68, Kwa-Zulu Natal 125, Limpopo 26, Mpumalanga 7, Northern Cape 12 and Western Cape 95. This brings the total to 36 851 deaths,” Mkhize said.

Hospitals are faced with rising numbers of covid-19 patients coupled with a lack of skilled staff and insufficient bulk oxygen supplies.

Reiner Gabler, managing director of Gabler Medical said there was a need for something that would effectively bridge the gap between current standard oxygen therapy via face masks and ICU-based non-invasive or mechanical ventilation while requiring no more oxygen flow than a standard face mask.

He said industrialisation and licensing have been a lengthy process, but now that the company has obtained SAHPRA approval for the device they can focus on scaling up production and getting this product to hospitals and clinics all over the country

“We can produce over 15,000 units a week, so capacity is not an issue. This will definitely create jobs during the pandemic and, if the product achieves general acceptance, also after the pandemic. The device holds export potential too,” said Gabler.

The OxERAholds great promise in-field testing and peer reviews, and while clinical trials will be undergone at Baragwanath hospitals, doctors and healthcare providers have remarked on the simplicity and efficiency of the product.

Dr Warren Gregorowski, working in Internal Medicine at Frere Hospital in East London said: “The device is very simple to assemble and user friendly. I have witnessed this device saving lives and I think that it could be used to great effect in hospitals throughout South Africa.”

Meanwhile the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) established by African Union Chair, president Cyril Ramaphosa has reported to a special meeting of the AU Bureau of the Assembly that it has secured a provisional 270 million vaccine doses for African countries, with at least 50 million being available for the crucial period of April to June 2021. – Mukurukuru Media

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