Ncedo Ludada never thought he would end up in a medical career. His goal was to pursue a career as a civil engineer, but he was unable to do so due to a lack of funds. He did not even know about the profession of prosthetics and orthotics and only applied because there was a scholarship opportunity from the department of health in the Eastern Cape to go and study in Tanzania. Now he provides breakthrough prosthetic services to disabled people in need and improves their lives.
He runs two successful private practices in Umtata and Gqeberha, and started Ludada and Associates Orthopaedic Services in 2016 to improve the quality of life of people living with disabilities and make a difference in his communities.
Growing up in a village called Ntlaza in the Eastern Cape, Ludada was raised by both his grandmothers, interchangeably from his mother’s and father’s sides of the family.
“My journey started when I was recruited by the department of health to study the manufacturing of orthotics and prosthetics, and I worked as a medical prosthetist at a government hospital in East London, where I realised that the ‘one size fits all’ technology commonly used resulted in discomfort and pain for most patients after their prosthetics were fitted. I also worked as a lecturer at Walter Sisulu University from 2015–2018, and before that, I did a master of clinical rehabilitation in Australia from 2014–2015.”
Filling a need
Ludada says that his day-to-day work involves assessments of physically impaired people and prescribing, designing, and manufacturing mobility assistive devices for disabled people.
According to the World Health Organisation, around 35-40 million people require prosthetic or orthotic services worldwide, highlighting the significant need for such solutions.
“These include amputations caused by accidents and diabetes; injuries caused by accidents; and muscle paralysis caused by cerebral palsy and stroke.”
Rental of prosthetic devices
Highlighting on how the rental of devices works to suit unique needs, Ludada shares that the products come in two folds: custom-made and standard-made. He explains that custom-made devices are suitable for one user, and that portion of the device cannot be rented out to someone else. Other accessories can still be used by someone else, but only the standard devices are rented out in full because they are not person-specific.
“Rented devices were discovered in 2022 after realising that devices were under-utilised by those who could afford them. Renting them for the desired period made sense, especially for those who have temporary injuries that heal in a few months. The advantage to renting out is to reduce cost, improve device maintenance and lifespan, increase affordability, and reduce waste.”
Ludada mentions that despite the success of finding a breakthrough model towards universal healthcare in assistive device rehabilitation, their main obstacle is that healthcare regulators believe that assistive devices are single-use for safety reasons.
Fighting for what he believes in
“The most challenging time has always been limiting assistive technologies to people who have functional demands for them. Due to socioeconomic status, that is a result or consequence of the very same disability,” he explains.
“We tend to challenge this by conducting a feasibility study to evaluate the feasibility of reusing single-use devices or green servitisation through my other company, Cipotech, which specialises in the circularity of orthotics and prosthetic products. We had to establish a stand-alone waste management company, as none existed in the industry.
“The company collects or buys used medical devices to refurbish, repair, repurpose, and recycle them for reuse as second-hand goods, whereas Ludada and Associates Orthopedic Services specialises in service to patient care, thus clinical care.”
Bridging limitations in government services
Further, he remarks that, indeed the government offers orthotics and prosthetic products freely, but there are certain limitations that make highly active users reject government services.
Despite initial challenges, Ludada’s solution to renting out orthotic and prosthetic devices has reduced costs and made these highly in-demand devices accessible to low-income earners as well.
Moreover, Ludada states that they are on the verge of scaling the business with two more branches in East London and Johannesburg, so medical devices will be supplied as a product and a service to ensure cost efficiency, universal access, and environmental care.
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