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Locally made ventilator prototypes ready for testing on COVID-19 patients

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Locally made ventilator prototypes ready for testing on COVID-19 patients
A stock photo of a hospital's intensive care unit. Among COVID-19 cases alone, 3-5% of patients require a ventilator.
Wikimedia

MANILA, Philippines — Three locally designed ventilator prototypes are set to be tested on actual patients in intensive care units in an effort to produce more affordable versions of the hospital equipment to aid in the battle against the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato dela Peña, in a task force meeting aired Monday night, told members of the Cabinet and President Rodrigo Duterte that the University of the Philippines-initiated Project Ginhawa to develop ventilators will receive a go-signal for mass production once testing is proven successful.

Countries around the world are scrambling to import, develop and manufacture ventilators to address the lack of supply as more and more patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms are being treated. Most hospitals do not have enough equipment to care for serious cases, forcing health care workers to make tough decisions on which patients will be given ventilators first.

Ventilators assist patients with weak lungs to inhale and exhale air. The machines are used to treat patients with pneumonia, brain injury and stroke. Among COVID-19 cases alone, 3-5% of patients require mechanical ventilation.

Dela Peña said the purchasing of ventilators recently became more challenging. "The average number of ventilators in small hospitals is [a] very, very small fraction of what is really needed... It suddenly became difficult to import ventilators because [countries] are trying to grab them first," he said, partly in Filipino.

The Duterte government has been criticized for its delays in the procurement of essential medical equipment including PPEs, surgical masks and ventilators right after the first reported cases of COVID-19 in January.

To address the shortage, the Department of Science and Technology is tapping other universities to help the University of the Philippines in the development and production of ventilators to supply hospitals in preparation for a surge of cases in intensive care units.

Among the eight organizations that expressed interest are the Mapua Institute of Technology and the Don Bosco Technical Institute. — Camille Diola

DEPARTMENT OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY FORTUNATO DE LA PEñA MAPUA INSTITUTE OF TECHNO­LOGY NOVEL CORONAVIRUS UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES VENTILATOR
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