COVID-19: We Have The Ventilator Blueprint!


Lets start from the beginning – COVID19 is a virus which is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome and is shown to display symptoms between 6 and 41 days, with the most common being 14 days. The virus first broke out in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and spread across the globe within weeks. So much so that WHO declared to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020. The virus has infected over 5 and a haldf million people and caused over 346,000 casualties across 188 countries.  COVID-19 is taking the world by storm. With UK lockdown announced last month (including an additional 3 week lock down extension) and all UK schools closed, it is a very unsettling time for everyone. If you were to tell me last year that in the first few months of 2020 there would be roaring Australian bushfires, climate emergencies, US trade tariff wars and a deadly virus spreading across the globe – I wouldn’t have believed you. It doesn’t look like things will be improving anytime soon – on March 11th, 2020, World Health Organization confirmed the Coronavirus a pandemic. A pandemic is the term used for a disease which is spreading between multiple people and counties at the same time. The last time a pandemic occurred was 2009 with swine flu. With confirmation of lockdown from Boris Johnson, most of the nation are panic buying the essentials to survive in quarantine. However, many other industries are panic buying in order to tackle and prevent the virus from spreading further. The US and UK Government have called on all manufactures to help make NHS ventilators.

UK Government

For many patients critically ill with COVID-19 – a ventilator could be a matter of life or death. The structure of the machine is to get oxygen to the lungs while removing carbon dioxide. This is essential for patients who are too sick to breathe on their own. Earlier this week, Boris Johnson announced the shortage of ventilators in order to tackle the virus. According to the BBC, the government is speaking to a wide range of manufacturers to see if they can lend a hand. The goal is to have “many times” the current number – about 20,000 additional machines as quickly as possible. “The fact the government is asking manufacturers to make a different product to what they normally make is unprecedented since the World War Two,” Justin Benson, from the consultancy KMPG, said. “It’s a relatively complex piece of equipment with lots of components and a dedicated supply chain. So, asking someone who makes a car to produce a respirator would take them some time.”

Currently, the other company which has been officially mentioned by the government to help is Oxfordshire firm Unipart group – they will be assisting with manufacturing ventilators. However, there have been talks of Rolls-Royce JCB taking part as well. Not only this, Honda, Jaguar Land Rover and Toyota are among manufactures who have been contacted by ministers. Honda told the FT it has “identified some potential areas where we may be able to provide support and have communicated this to government”. “We’re calling on the manufacturing industry and all those with relevant expertise who might be able to help to come together to help the country tackle this national crisis” said a Downing street spokesperson. “We need to step up production of vital equipment such as ventilators so that we can all help the most vulnerable, and we need businesses to come to us and help in this national effort.”

According to the Guardian, Downing Street has claimed it failed to take part in an EU scheme to source life-saving ventilators to treat coronavirus because it accidentally missed the deadline. No 10 initially said it did not take part because the UK was “no longer a member” and was “making our own efforts”. The spokesman said Dyson would be paid for its ventilators only if they passed regulatory tests. He said there had been an “overwhelming response” from firms offering to make ventilators, and the government was now testing “proof of concept” with a number of suppliers. “New orders are all dependent on machines passing regulatory tests,” he said. Stated from the BBC, the deaths of another 563 coronavirus patients in the UK were announced on Wednesday 1st April, the country’s biggest daily increase since the outbreak began. Stated from the Guardian, the NHS had about 8,175 ventilators at the time of Johnson’s request and he called on firms to deliver 30,000 within weeks, a task some experts have said was unrealistic. Health secretary Matt Hancock has since revised that requirement down to 18,000.

Things are looking up for the UK in terms of ventilators. According to the Guardian, the first batch of ventilators will be 5,000 from Oxfordshire-based Penlon. The ventilator specialist is drawing on manufacturing support from firms including Formula 1 teams McLaren and Mercedes, Ford, Siemens and Meggitt. Not only this, Tesla are doing a great job at contributing to tackle the virus. Stated from Forbes, the coronavirus crisis has led Elon Musk to jump into the medical device industry, with SpaceX fabricating components for Medtronic MDT ventilators, corporate donations of BiPAP breathing machines that can be modified for use as non-invasive ventilators and promising to use a Tesla TSLA factory to produce ventilators. Now Tesla engineers have designed a prototype ventilator that uses parts adapted from electric vehicles.

Boris Johnson’s Speech

On Sunday 10th May, Boris Johnson announced a ‘conditional plan’ which consists of lifting England’s coronavirus lockdown in small steps. In his address, Boris said people who could not work from home – including those in the manufacturing and construction industries – should return to the workplace but avoid public transport. Not only this, people will be allowed to take unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise, drive to other destinations to exercise, and play sports with household members from Wednesday 13th May. Boris stated that ‘we are taking the first careful steps to modify our measures’ which is planned to go through to July 2020. No earlier than 1st July, we could see some hospitality businesses open ‘if the numbers support it’ stated by Boris Johnson. Moving forward, in my opinion summer 2020 will be very restricted when it comes to meeting friends, going to hospitality events and abroad holidays will be written off.

US Government

Discussions are underway with General Motors and Ford with the White House about using vacant car factories to manufacture breathing equipment. The breathing equipment will be used for patients tackling COVID-19 who need assistant breathing. Ford have said they are ready “to help the administration in any way we can . . . We have had preliminary talks with the US government and are looking into the feasibility”. In the United States, The Society of Critical Care Medicine could need tens of thousands of extra ventilators in the coming weeks, according to CNN.

What Are People Doing To Help?

According to BBC, a team in Colombia is to test a ventilator made with a Raspberry Pi computer and easy-to-source parts. The design and computer code were posted online in March by a man in California, who had no prior experience at creating medical equipment. Marco Mascorro, a robotics engineer, said he built the ventilator because knew the machines were in high demand to treat Covid-19. His post prompted a flood of feedback from healthcare workers. He has used the advice to make improvements. “I am a true believer that technology can solve a lot of the problems we have right now specifically in this pandemic,” he told the BBC.

Challenges

These are very difficult times for individuals and businesses due to the uncertainty of what the future holds. It’s challenging for the NHS to gather as many ventilators as possible due to the fact there are only 5,000 in the UK. It’s not like we are able to borrow a few thousand ventilators from a nearby country as they are in high demand across the globe. When the city of Wuhan went into lockdown, China’s industrial equipment department said to have produced more than 15,000 ventilators. Not only this, delivery times are almost at a standstill due to many factories and borders being on lockdown.  Stated from CNN, doctors have warned that finding staff to operate the machines in already stretched healthcare systems will be a challenge. Dr. Rinesh Parmar, chair of the Doctors’ Association UK, said “the elephant in the room is that we have a critical shortage of intensive care doctors and nurses in the [National Health Service] who can look after ventilated patients” and said staff would need to be retrained.

Not only this, ventilators are very difficult to manufacturer due to its unique structure and programming. “These are extremely sensitive machines with not only a lot of hardware, but also a lot of software. If one of the components does not work correctly, the whole machine shuts down and cannot be used anymore,” Jens Hallek, CEO at Hamilton Medical said. However, large and small companies are joining forces in order to tackle the virus once and for all. According to the Daily Mail, a family run engineering company located in Wales are developing a new ventilator to treat the patients. It is said they are on route to producing 100 ventilators a day. Engineers CR Clarke – who usually design plastic fabrication equipment for industry – were approached by Dr Rhys Thomas ( NHS Senior ) who was concerned at the lack of intensive care unit ventilators.

According to many sources, the ventilator production target isnt looking too posititve. Stated from the BBC, manufactures have said they cannot produce enough ventilators within the deadline. Health officials expect the virus to peak in around two weeks time (mid April) and need 30,000 ventilators – while currently only having 8,000 to hand. However, things aren’t looking too bad if Dyson approve their order from the Government. Stated from BBC, Dyson has received an order for 10,000 units, pending regulatory approval. The firm, headed by British inventor Sir James Dyson, has drawn up its design from scratch in collaboration with Cambridge-based medical firm The Technology Partnership.

As the shortage of ventilators are becoming more crucial for tackling the virus, “health professionals may be obliged to withdraw treatment from some patients to enable treatment of other patients with a higher survival probability,”according to the BBC. “This may involve withdrawing treatment from an individual who is stable or even improving but whose objective assessment indicates a worse prognosis than another patient who requires the same resource.”

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson tested positive for Coronavirus late last month, since then he has been hospitalised for a series of routine tests. Stated from the BBC, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is “still very much in charge of the government” despite spending the night in hospital with coronavirus, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has said. This makes things more challenging for Boris as he is jugging managing the country along with his own health.  “I still have a temperature. So in accordance with government advice I must continue my self isolation until that symptom itself goes,” he said. “But we’re working clearly the whole time on our programme to beat the virus.” Hopefully Boris will have a speedy recovery and be back to doing what he does best soon.

Why it is So Important

According to The Manufacturer, Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said on Sunday that UK hospitals have about 5,000 ventilators but that more are needed to treat patients with serious cases of the Coronavirus.

Ventilators are critical within the treatment of the most severe cased of COVID-19 in assisting patients to breathe. The breathing assist devices regulate oxygen into the patient’s lungs and extract carbon dioxide – just like a normal set of healthy lungs would. According to Axios’ Caitlin Owens, there are about 62,000 ventilators in the US. There is such a high demand for these devices that Airon Corporation, a small ventilator maker, had to turn down a request from an Italian company for 2,000 machines. Along with this, manufacturers are having to drop their work to produce these devices. These devices are so important for critically ill patients as it could be the difference between life and death.

Ventilator Blueprint:

ESUK Apr20 p28_29 Ventilator infographic (1)

What Can I Do to Help?

The Government wants an army of manufactures to assembly ventilators in order to suppress this virus. If you are a contract manufacturer and have the facilities / components to produce ventilators – contact the Government. On the other hand, if you have an old ventilator and it is no use to you then I would advise the Government as I am sure they will need it! In my opinion to help, I would begin to self-isolate as soon as possible and avoid medical centres unless necessary. As well as this, I would advise to avoid busy tourist areas to prevent further spread of the virus. More people with coronavirus will result in more people needing ventilators. Stay safe!

The Gov website released a statement saying:

The government is looking for businesses who can support in the supply of ventilators and ventilator components across the UK as part of our response to COVID-19.

As well as manufacturers, we are looking for businesses with the following skills:

  • design/specification
  • rapid prototyping
  • contract/product assembly
  • certification/regulation/testing
  • logistics
  • medical training

If you or your company has any of these skills to hand, please contact www.gov.uk

By Amy Leary, Marketing Manager at eBOM.com


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