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Parents can rest assured that their kids are receiving a new level of innovative care when tucked into a Symba bed

Jed Aylmer, Managing Director of Praestet and creator of the Symba paediatric hospital bed, tells us more about his unique design and explains how a new approach will allow medical staff to provide significantly improved care.

Q: Please give our readers a brief background of your field of study and your occupation.

A: I am a medical product and industrial designer and an entrepreneur. I graduated from the University of Johannesburg in 2013 with a degree in Industrial Design. I worked in the industry for a few years before starting Praestet. My field is a rather expansive one. It is primarily deals with the design of objects and products that people interact with. I always like to think of Industrial Designers as the architects of our interactive world. Industrial or Product Designers generally work on a wide range of projects in diverse fields. These include automotive design, furniture design, biomedical design and system design. Lastly, Industrial Designers are concerned with user interactions and the use of products, systems and objects. They basically translate a need or want into a physical, digital or process manifestation that satisfies that need or want.

Q: Tell us more about your company Praestet. Which title do you fulfil within the company?

A: Praestet is a healthcare design and distribution company. The company is primarily focused on the development and improvement of healthcare furniture. Our first product is the Symba Paediatric Hospital Bed. I am the Managing Director of Praestet and run the day-to-day operations of the company. My day is nonstop and involves product design, research and development, looking after the business and finances. I can attend meetings with suppliers about a tool change in the morning and meet with potential funding agencies in the afternoon. Somewhere in between I eat lunch while replying to emails.

Q: How did you get involved in the NMCH project?

A: During my final project, and while coming up with the idea to design the bed, I needed to gather some clinical research. I followed NMCH on an architecture blog and approached them to assist me with some research questions. When the project was completed, I went to the Trust to show them my design and small prototype. They saw the result, and very excitedly asked if I could make this a reality. I accepted the challenge, as they had accepted the mandate from Nelson Mandela to build the Hospital, and the dream began to turn into reality. From here, I became more involved with the amazing Trust and Commissioning Team and assisted with additional projects at the Hospital. The team has supported me along the way and offered guidance and encouragement – something desperately needed when starting a new business.

Q: Tell us more about your revolutionary bed. What was the inspiration behind this design? How did the idea come to life?

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A: I think it was the day that I went to Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital to do some clinical research. While the Head of Paediatrics was taking me around, I saw some child patients in the standard steel, cage-like cots in the wards. I stopped to have a look and realised from the nurses’ conversations that the product was inadequate. I did some further research and realised that the cage-like cot design hadn’t changed for many years. I think the challenge of redefining the cot and introducing new and intelligent features spurred me toward the bed. It was a twofold motivation – injecting innovation into a product that is used every day by medical professionals and parents, but also improving the environment in which the primary user (the child) recovers. It was about more than just the features; it was about making a product that feels good and perhaps helps children recover faster.

Q: What is unique about the Symba Bed? What specific problems/challenges does it solve?

A: The name Symba came from a story about the Lion, the Hyena and the Hare published in “Nelson Mandela’s Favourite Folktales”. The Lion’s name was Simba – I thought this so appropriate for the way the child patients should feel. They should get better and stronger in a Symba. The product is born from a new way of looking at the various parts of the paediatric cot bed. Symba has clear cot sides which allow visual access to the child by medical professionals, but also access for the child to interact with their parents and the rest of the ward. Symba also has four individually lowered cot sides, giving full access to the child in case of a head operation such as an intubation. The mattress cradle also adjusts into various medical positions for paediatric care. The cot sides have a dual locking safety lock and can lock into multiple positions. This makes the product adaptable to the requirements of the ward and also keeps the nurses and children safe.

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Symba also has high quality casters and accessory ports allowing medical staff to bolt on various accessories such as oxygen tanks and drip stands. This makes the product much easier to move around the hospital. Lastly, the product looks cheerful. The rounded and “soft” plastic parts in assorted colours bring life to the hospital room.

Q: Tell us more about your involvement with the play walls in the Play Areas and the Monster Benches in the corridors of the hospital. What was the inspiration behind the designs?

A: I was approached by the NMCH Interior Designer, Michelle Foster. She had basic concepts and a rough idea of the monster benches. We sat down and looked at how we can translate these into something tangible. I think she believed they would have to be toned down in order to be produced. Looking at the hospital interior, I realised we had to make these elements pop. We used the actual playdough models from Funanani for the monsters and scanned these to adapt them in the CAD environment.

screen-shot-2017-04-13-at-12-05-14-pmAfter much tweaking and liaison with manufacturers, we came up with an innovative way to bring them to life. When I first submitted the playwall drawings to my shopfitter, I think I heard a pin drop on the line. But after working with him for a few weeks, we managed to bring them to life and make them a striking and exciting part of the ward playrooms.  

Q: Please explain the pros and cost effectiveness of the Symba Bed.

A: Symba is 98% locally manufactured which means it is a cost effective product. It considers the South African context and is durable for long term use. We will also provide maintenance services.

Symba offers a user-friendly environment. It addresses the concerns and functional requirements of medical professionals while also looking at how the patient and parents feel. The design offers new, advanced medical functionality while also making it easy and simple to operate. Symba is about making the lives of all its users better and safer.

Q: Please tell us about the design and manufacture partnerships/collaborations that helped you realise your idea?

A: This could be a very extensive list as there are a lot of key players who have helped Symba come to life. I have partnered with a biomedical engineering firm in Cape Town who do some magnificent work with both our QC database as well the structural considerations of Symba.

UJ has also been instrumental in helping me to get the project off the ground and have offered support and guidance with the technicalities of executing the design. Each of my manufacturers know me well – we have engaged for many months to ensure that the product looks and works great. Part of this has been countless samples and design revisions for tooling.

We worked with prominent local manufacturers as well as some international mouldmakers to ensure Symba was above and beyond what is currently offered on the market. Lastly, we have also worked closely with smaller manufacturers, helping to uplift their businesses and create additional employment.

Q: How many beds have you supplied to NMCH?

A: Praestet will be supplying 50 Symba beds to NMCH. Three demo units were shown at the ribbon-cutting on 2 December 2016 and the clinical trial is scheduled for early April. The production order will be rolling out from May and is expected to be complete by June 2017.

Q: Do you plan to roll out this design nationally/internationally?

A: Absolutely, one of Praestet’s mottos is “locally manufactured, globally relevant”. We are looking to distribute to local hospital groups hopefully within this year. The goal is also international distribution as a way of showing off our South African talent on the world stage. There have been some early conversations around this and we are hoping to jump into the global market by early 2018. This is an exciting time for Praestet and Symba.