Unique trolley designed for neo-natal transport service

Paraid (a division of Evac+Chair International), a specialist in patient transportation, has designed a unique trolley to enable the road carriage and loading of a customised incubator system, used for the air transport of newborn babies who require emergency care.

Three years in development, the Elevating Transporter+ (ET+), was required to meet an exact set of criteria to enable it to operate in varying and demanding environments. It will ultimately help to save lives for the national neo-natal transport service, based in Dublin.

With no consistent approach to neonatal patient transport around the world, ET+ has been specifically designed for the Irish market. This trolley alone will serve the neonatal air transport needs of the whole of Ireland.

The National Neo-Natal Transport Programme (NNTP) in Ireland covers a population of 4.25m with around 620 critical care transports a year. The majority of neonatal transports are conducted using the NNTP’s road transport trolleys in dedicated ambulances. However, some areas are up to four hours’ drive from the nearest tertiary neonatal hospital, so air transport is a vital part of providing access to specialist urgent care. The ET+ will be used for critical care newborn babies only, equating to about 50-60 air transports a year, of which about 10 will travel overseas (mostly to the UK).

The programme was searching for a versatile bespoke design for a single trolley that could be used in a variety of scenarios. It has been developed to meet very specific criteria to ensure it fits different ambulance designs, both now and in the future, as well as providing a solution for loading the NNTP’s air transport incubator system in all the aircraft variants used for neo-natal transfers throughout Ireland.

Specifying the trolley design has been a collaborative project involving the National Neonatal Transport Programme (NNTP), The Irish Air Corps, the National Ambulance Service, clinical engineers, and neonatal specialists.

Ann Bowden, Neo-Natal Transport Programme Coordinator, based at the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, the oldest continuously operating maternity hospital in the world, explains the challenges that needed to be overcome. She said, “We don’t have our own dedicated air transport, or a charitably funded service. Currently in Ireland, emergency medical air transport is provided by the Irish Air Corps, which has an SLA to provide the Irish Health Service Executive (HSE) with emergency neo-natal air transport. It uses three specific variants of aircraft, Rotary EC139 and Rotary EC135 helicopters, as well as a fixed-wing plane. While we have air certified solutions for securing our incubator system in all these aircraft in flight, we needed a common solution for loading it in the varying aircraft types and also its carriage by road at either end of the flight.

“Our previous trolley had a number of challenges. It didn’t suit all the modes of transport used, didn’t reach the height needed to transfer between the ambulance and the aircraft transport and was powered by electricity via a battery which had the potential to fail.

“We had a very specific and challenging remit for Paraid, as the new trolley had to: fit securely into the various layouts of different types of ambulances (both dedicated neonatal and front-line ambulances); rise to a height that could transfer the incubator system and patient smoothly to different access heights in the aircraft (going higher than anything else currently available); have a small footprint and be able to lock into ambulances, and to fit easily and securely into the cargo aperture of the aircraft so that it could be used to transfer the patient at the end of the transfer; be robust and strong enough for the stable transfer of the ICU patient and equipment such as oxygen, gas and electrical equipment; be aligned with medical vehicles and equipment standard BS EN 1789 through the use of computer simulation; be safe, easy to use and secure for manual handling/staff requirements; be able to fit new designs of ambulance and transport up to 10 years ahead to deliver optimum return on investment; have no electrical or battery power requirements because of their potential to fail; be compatible with an AAT Aeromedical Incubator Sled with or without Lifeport Interface Plate; carry a load of up to 145kg (a single infant plus equipment); and be suitable to be transported as cargo in all aircraft as there is no guarantee what aircraft will be available in an emergency.

“Paraid has done an amazing job in solving the problem of delivering a trolley that would meet all our needs. At times it seemed as though the challenges would be impossible to overcome, but the design team has put an exceptional amount of work into coming up with the right solution. It’s genius, and everyone is so impressed with what they have done.”

Steve Jinks, Product Development Manager at Paraid, said, “We specialise in designing and manufacturing complex transport equipment to support critically ill patients. It is testament to the collaborative approach taken to developing its design and functionality that we have been able to create such a unique and complex trolley that will help to save young lives in Ireland for many years to come.”