SIT Lab Seating Clinic

The Seating Information Technology Laboratory, or SIT Lab was officially launched on 10 November 2005 at the Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital in Auckland Park, Johannesburg, and Rolling Inspiration was fortunate to be at this exciting event. The SIT Lab is a seating clinic which addresses the mobility needs of persons who rely on a wheelchair for their mobility, through wheelchair seating solutions.

Deon Buhrs, the Operations Manager of the clinic explained that he was most excited to finally see the concept of the SIT Lab become a reality as he and his colleagues have been working on the concept for 5 years. His vision was to bring this first-world service standard to South Africa, and make it available for South Africans.

The SIT Lab is the coming together of the University of Pretoria’s Physiotherapy Department, Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital, and Rita Henn and Partners, the Physiotherapy practice that operates from the Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital. SIT Lab is a service provided to both inpatients and outpatients at Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital. The assessments are done by at least two rehabilitation clinicians over a one hour period. Their clinical judgment is complemented by the use of a pressure-mapping device, called the Force Sensitive Application (FSA). This is a thin mat that is placed on top of the wheelchair cushion connected to a computer. The system gives real-time feedback to the client and the clinicians, indicating the amount of pressure that exists over the areas of the buttocks while sitting in the wheelchair.

• Bones in the buttocks

• Legs

• Front

• Back

It is the extensive consignment stock that is at hand in the clinic that then allows the assessors to try out various wheelchair and cushion combinations, until the optimum combination is found. The research influence of the University of Pretoria and the aid of the FSA system ensures that this is all done in an objective and scientific manner. Should the solution not be found in the off-the-shelf equipment that is available, then custom made seating is explored, with the help of an experienced on-site Orthotist/Prosthotist. Not only is the seating system as a whole looked at in minimising the risks of pressure sores, but also the extended needs of the client. This includes education sessions in English and Zulu, not only for the client, but also for their family and/or carers; and diet recommendations to aid in pressure ulcer healing and the maintenance of healthy skin. An extensive information resource area is also available to clinicians and patients alike, within the SIT Lab.

Dr. Carina Eksteen from the Department of Physiotherapy at the University of Pretoria explained that the aims of the SIT Lab are to:

• Minimise the risk of pressure sore development;

• Maintain or improve the postural alignment; and

• Maximise the mobility and independent function of their clients.

The contributing factors to the development of complications when using a wheelchair for your mobility needs are addressed through preventative strategies, correct equipment prescription, education and training. The aspects effecting skin integrity that are addressed at the SIT Lab include pressure, posture, wheelchair prescription and set-up, and the choice of cushion.

Leoni Beaurain, the Hospital Manager of Netcare Rehab indicates that it is the potential development of postural deformities and pressure ulcers in individuals who have mobility and sensory impairments that drives the SIT Lab in its venture to minimise these risks. The potential costs involved in treating these complications are huge, and is outweighed by the relatively low cost of a Specialised Seating Clinic assessment. This approach is endorsed by the QuadPara Association of South Africa, with their National Director, Ari Seirlis pleased that the SIT Lab is run as a Section 21 Company (operating not for profit), where profits are invested back into the establishment and improvement of service standards, research and development.

When asked what the future plans were for the SIT Lab, Deon explained that the first step would be to consolidate and establish the Seating Clinic at the hospital, before embarking on their future expansion of the service. The planned developments are to:

• Engage in active research, with the publication of articles in the relevant medical journals

• Focus more intensively on clinician training including nurses, Physiotherapists and Occupational therapists

• Offer a service of product testing, and development

Contact details for the SIT Lab:
Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital
2 Bunting Road Auckland Park, Johannesburg South Africa

To book an appointment, or to visit the SIT Lab:
Tel: Sindiswa Zambaqa
+2711 489 1226 / +2711 489 1452 Fax: +2711 489 1190 Email: seating@netcare.co.za

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