Lightweight, portable ventilator offers hope against COVID-19 in India
The health ministry has placed an order of 10,000 ventilators from a Chinese firm, but even this won’t sufficiently meet the expected surge in the demand.
New York’s Governor, Andre Cuomo, warned yesterday that the state would run out of available ventilators in the next 6 days. This highlights a central concern of the pandemic; those who fall severely sick and require breathing assistance won’t get it once cases start to mount.
How is India positioned to face this challenge?
Estimates suggest that there are 40,000 ventilators across the country. If there is a crisis, this capacity will quickly be overwhelmed. The health ministry has placed an order of 10,000 ventilators from a Chinese firm, but even this won’t sufficiently meet the expected surge in the demand.
Ventilators are costly — the sophisticated machine costs between Rs 5-7 lakhs — and require specially trained staff to operate. Some local companies have offered hope of supplying low-cost, easy to operate, and portable ventilators.
AgVa’s portable ventilator
AgVa, started by neurosurgeon Deepak Agrawal and robot scientist Diwakar Vaish, produces no-frills ventilators, at a fraction of the cost. The firm hopes to step up production from 500 to 20,000 this month; the government has approached them to manufacture 5,000 by 15th April. These machines are priced at Rs. 1.5 lakhs each, significantly more affordable than those usually purchased by hospitals. Further, the ventilator, which weighs just 3.5 kgs, is easy to operate with simple touch-screen instructions, and only needs to be plugged into an electrical outlet to work. Unlike other ventilators that require a piped oxygen supply, this model relies on room air.
This means it can be used in makeshift facilities, or even at homes. Those who have breathing issues but are not critical can be put on these ventilators, easing the burden on hospital capacity.
Maruti Suzuki has come forward and pledged assistance with the production.
It is hoped that current supply chain issues in the country can be overcome, and these ventilators reach those who will invariably need them.
For more information, read our article on Must-have features for ventilators for those with severe symptoms.
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