UJ Graduate designs innovative bed for Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital

A novel hospital bed designed by a University of a Johannesburg (UJ) graduate was recently recognized at the launch of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital (NMCH) in December 2016.
Mr Jed Aylmer, a graduate in Industrial Design from the UJ Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (FADA), designed the innovative and colourful plastic bed.
Located in Parktown, NMCH is a 200-bed, dedicated paediatric hospital which will be built into the referral network of academic hospitals throughout the country. This unique health care model will serve patients in both the public and private health care system.
The hospital looked to ways in which to develop and encourage new concepts for paediatric healthcare approaches. Part of this was looking at how the child is considered in hospital. For Aylmer this was an opportunity to relook the design of the environment in which the child would spend a great deal of time – the cot-bed.
Aylmer, the director of Praestet (Pty) Ltd, developed the attractive “Symba Paediatric Hospital Bed” proposal as his capstone project in the Department of Industrial Design. “Whilst analysing the current products and researching new ideas, several paediatricians and members of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust were consulted,” he said.
With help from his UJ supervisor Victor Dos Santos, lecturer in Industrial Design, Aylmer began sculpting his ideas and developing a theoretical citation. “The result was a “first pass” design of a bed which looked at offering a comforting environment in which a child can recover,” explained Aylmer.
After completing his studies, and gaining interest from NMCH, Aylmer approached the Commercialisation and Technology Transfer Office (TTO) at UJ to gain early stage commercialisation advice. The TTO assisted with refining the initial design, developing a full-scale prototype and looking at a medium-term scalable business model. They have continued to support Aylmer whilst he developed the various aspects of his business.
The fundamental design approach for Symba was how to improve the environment in which a child recovers while considering the needs and requirements of medical professionals. “The problem with being a sick toddler is that ‘you get stuck in a cage”, remarked Aylmer. He went on to explain that although the child should be kept safely in the bed, it shouldn’t mean that the product must resemble a cage. The clear plastic sides on Symba reduces the cage-like feel of conventional cots and the colourful plastic bed is softer and warmer to touch than cold steel cots.
Fifty beds have been ordered from Praestet for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, and will be delivered in the coming months.
All four cot-sides can be opened in contrast to standard cots which only have two sides that can be lowered. The cot-side at the head and foot can be lowered, allowing doctors to reach a child’s head or neck for a medical procedure.
Eight attachment ports, two on each bed corner, allow oxygen tanks, drips and medical devices to be attached. This means only one nurse is needed to move the bed to imaging or an alternative ward. The mattress cradle can also be raised to various medical positions for optimal recovery of the child. Symba has been developed according to the latest international guidelines on paediatric bed design.
Aylmer remarks that the next steps for Praestet are to begin consolidated manufacture of the beds specifically looking to set up “assembly facilities and distribution teams to begin both local and international sales of Symba”. The company will also focus on continued development of complimentary products for the healthcare space. Part of this is ensuring that the local design and manufacturing talent of South Africa is showcased on a global level.
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