European production at full speed for corona patients in intensive care units

Hospitals in Belgium are currently massively using Ergotrics cushions for ventilating Corona patients in prone position. Both production and logistics are running at full speed in order to assist as many Intensive Care Units as possible in their care for these critical patients. This is only possible thanks to the help and efforts of suppliers and a conscious choice in the past to produce locally.

“We believe in the power of production here, close to our innovation engineers and our customers,” explains Inge Bruynooghe, CEO Ergotrics. That’s why, at the end of 2018, Ergotrics and Vinya, a manufacturer of para-medical devices since 1948, and Sioen, a Belgian-based international manufacturer of technical textiles, joined forces. Final assembly and packaging takes place at A-kwadraat, a social economy company in Turnhout with a quality certificate for medical production. The unique and patented idea of the start-up Ergotrics, combined with the knowledge and experience of these existing companies, in July 2019 resulted in the first surgery ever on air cushions and an optimal and ergonomic new way of positioning patients in the operation theatre.

The pandemic forced Ergotrics to prioritize the certification and production of Inflatable Prone Ventilation (IPV) pillows for use in intensive care units. “Rapid prototyping was used to shorten the innovation process, but the biggest challenge was to increase production capacity. Hospitals placed new orders immediately after the first test order and our inventory strategy was not yet ready for this,” explains Michaël Maes, production engineer at Ergotrics, “In the meantime the first questions came from hospitals in Italy, The Netherlands and France.”

Eight months after the official launch, in full Covid-19 lock-down, Vinya’s flexible SME model offers the appropriate answer to the rising demand for more patient support for ventilation in prone position. With full conviction, all of Vinya’s colleagues together with Ergotrics, Sioen and A-Kwadraat continue to build an answer to the distressing evolution of the pandemic virus. The technical know-how, European local production and proximity offer an appropriate answer to the unexpected doubling of demand in these crucial times.

Several intensivists testified on television about the heavy work of lifting and tilting the many corona patients who have to be ventilated alternately in supine and prone position. The uniqueness of the Ergotrics solution is the use of compressed air instead of manual force. In combination with an inflatable board (IBO) it is possible to perform this work ergonomically with 2 nurses less. This product resulted from Ergotrics’ collaboration with the design and engineering company Voxdale and Coatex (part of the Sioen Industries group) in Poperinge. The patented inflatable board is washable and reusable. Production takes place in various stages, respecting the current safety measures with regard to social distancing. Dirk Scharpé, sales manager at Coatex: “The inflatable board was initially developed to bring patients in prone position before surgery. We are delighted that it now also offers a solution for patients affected by the Covid-19 virus. “

Aristide Melissas, CEO Vinya: “I am enormously proud of this Belgian tripartite. This proves once again that you don’t always have to go that far to get the mustard and that Belgium is a beautiful country with many capacities. The commitment of all our employees and the loyalty are typical for our family SME. We are all delighted to be able to do our bit to support patients and nurses in these hectic times. “