By now you must have heard the country is facing a shortage of ventilators that could lead to serious ethical challenges. To put this in some kind of perspective, US hospitals have about 160,000 machines and the federal stock pile includes another 12,000. That sounds like a lot, but not all are fit for critical care and many are already in use.
New York State expects it might need 18,000 ventilators when the wave of the Covid-19 pandemic peaks in the state. Worse case, the state is short by 15,783 of a week of these machines at the peak of the epidemic. Even if the federal government gave this one state all of its reserve supply, it wouldn’t be enough.
Some of the major market players in the ventilators market are Philips Healthcare (Netherlands), ResMed (US), Medtronic (Ireland), Becton, Dickinson and Company (US), Getinge (Sweden), Dräger (Germany), Smiths Group (UK), Hamilton Medical (Switzerland), GE Healthcare (US), Fisher & Paykel (New Zealand), Air Liquide (France), Zoll Medical (US), Allied Healthcare Products (US), Airon Mindray (China), and Schiller (Switzerland). Who knows how many of them depend on parts from China?
The head of a UK company that makes ventilators, Craig Thompson from Penlon, says it is unrealistic to suppose that car manufacturing companies can make ventilators. In his words: “The idea that an engineering company can quickly manufacturer medical devices, and comply with the rules, is unrealistic because of the heavy burden of standards and regulations that need to be complied with.” In other words, regulations will kills us.
The open source Irish entrepreneur Colin Keogh and Breeze Automation CEO and co-founder Gui Calavanti produced a prototype ventilator using 3D-printed parts and readily available, inexpensive material. The Irish Health Services is going to test it for validation in Ireland – but if it works for the Irish, it will probably work for the rest of mankind. You can find these guys on Facebook at Open Source COVID19 Medical Supplies.
A group of Italian volunteers distributed 3D-printed versions of a patented valve for ventilators which was in short supply at Italian hospitals. They asked the company that manufactured the ventilators for the design files for the valves but were turned down as these were ‘company property.’ So the volunteers reverse engineered the part. The 3D printed version cost about $1.00 US.
So all you folks who suddenly became homeschooling families, maybe consider doing a unit respiration and 3D printing and blueprints (and copyright infringement.)