News Release - 8 May, 2020
New venture brings medical manufacturing of Ventilator Hoods to NZ
As New Zealand was readying to go into lockdown, the effectiveness of ventilator hoods in the treatment of COVID-19 patients in Europe was being discussed by Dr Craig Carr, Clinical Director of Dunedin Hospital ICU, and Minister David Parker. Dr Carr’s previous user experience with similar products in the UK spurred the discussion and highlighted the fact that there is a considerable shortage of these hoods globally which combined with export restrictions was making it difficult for New Zealand to purchase.
Minister Parker contacted Chris Hopkins, previous CEO of Dunedin based Scott Technology, who then assembled a team of professionals to create an immediate solution by designing a hood that would be manufactured in New Zealand. The team includes clinicians Dr Craig Carr and Dr Matthew Leaper, anaesthetic technician Bill Clarke, engineers Mark Seaton and Richard Aimers, product designers Andrew Wallace and William Early, scientist Dr Barbara Webster and businessman Roger Farley. The Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin generously allowed the team to use their rapid prototyping facilities to develop the concept and prototypes.
Early design and development was completed within the first weeks of Level 4 lockdown and a prototype of predominately 3D printed parts was developed and built. Minister Parker connected the team with philanthropist funders and the venture came to life with the ability to manufacture tooling for production. A company called SouthMED was formed and rapidly undertook development aimed at an initial 200 units. A final product is now close to being production ready.
It has been an amazing story of individual professionals in our community coming together to get the job done quickly by combining their unique skills, tools, knowledge and networks. Overwhelming support was shown by the industrial community which rose to the challenge of providing the sub-contracting needed for this project. Everyone contributed, working long hours to ensure testing and validation could happen in days rather than weeks, as none of the team knew how quickly the hoods would be required. The hoods are currently being tested at the Dunedin ICU and in Christchurch by Professor Geoff Shaw. The hoods will be effective at treating patients with respiratory illness’s including COVID-19. Experience gained in Italy has found many patients with COVID-19 have a more favourable outcome when using a ventilation hood.
These low cost hoods are able to provide positive pressure thereby significantly reducing the need for invasive intubation or ventilation. The SouthMED hood has improved air filter management to control and contain viral particles from reaching the surrounding environment. Ventilator hoods are generally more comfortable and less obstructive to wear than a ventilator mask and enable patients to be positioned for comfort and best medical care.
SouthMED’s only financial support to date is the start-up loan kindly provided by a private group of New Zealand philanthropists. In the last two weeks, SouthMED has applied to MBIE/Callaghan for assistance from the COVID-19 Innovation Acceleration Fund, with the goal that New Zealand hospitals will be equipped with NZ made ventilator hoods of an international standard.
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