Various initiatives seek to supply the health system with respiratory assistants when there is a high demand for hospitalizations and, thus, save lives
Having respirators will be key to face the peaks of contagion of coronavirus in Argentina. And the available ones would not be enough to meet the expected demand. For this reason, there are several projects in the country that aim to manufacture respiratory assistants or devices to adapt the respirators that exist in the operating rooms in order to have enough devices to help patients who need it.
If in Argentina there are some 8,500 beds with availability of artificial respirators, according to official figures, and the expectation is to reach 10,000 in the next month – and only in the province of Buenos Aires is the peak of contagion expected to occur in April, reason for which 14,000 beds are conditioned, it is noted that the urgency to have adequate medical equipment is high.
It is the reason why various projects arise in different parts of the country to provide both devices and breathing assistants, with the possibility that they can be manufactured by SME companies that today have little production, whatever they produce, or by companies that are practically paralyzed, such as automakers.
In no case are they artificial respirators. Why? Because the validation processes required by the National Administration of Medicines, Food and Medical Technology (ANMAT) are long and will not be fulfilled, in this context. Therefore, the way out of the different initiatives is to design devices that help existing and validated medical equipment.
ADIMRA, Toyota, the Breathing Project and the National University of Rosario are some of the initiatives aimed at manufacturing respiratory devices or assistants in the short term to help future patients infected with coronavirus who need this equipment to recover.
In all cases they argue that the numbers of infected by Covid-19 within the framework of the four contagion scenarios that they handle in the Government exceed any current forecast. In fact, these scenarios range from 250,000 infected to 2.5 million, and the treatment they receive will depend on both their recovery and their lives.
The project promoted by the Association of Metallurgical Industrialists of the Argentine Republic (ADIMRA) has the seal of Adox, a company that develops hygiene supplies, among other solutions. The initiative consists of a low-short device that allows respirators intended for other medical uses, such as those in operating rooms, to be adapted so that they can be used in the care of patients affected by Covid-19 and who are needing mechanical ventilation.
“The objective of this project is to use what is already there and to change the use of that respirator with a part that can be quickly manufactured in a turnery workshop and supplied to health centers in a few days. It was already approved by ANMAT in the whole country, “he told iProfessional, Javieir Viqueira, President of Adox, and ADIMRA Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
An artificial respirator costs between $ 15,000 and $ 20,000. This device could adapt the existing ones and, thus, collaborate in the urgency as the Government establishes new measures aimed not only at preventing contagion but also at preventing the number of affected people who need hospitalization from causing the health system to collapse.
Manufacture for third parties
Beyond the production of this device that adapts to existing respirators, Viqueira said that what interests them most is making the concept available to the different provincial governments, not just the national one.
“It is an easily adaptable solution and could be incorporated into these teams, whatever their brand or model, at a cost that does not exceed $ 10,000,” added the manager.
Another initiative underway is the RespirAr Project, a movement promoted by a group of young people who decided to get down to work when they saw the projections of the pandemic and warned that the situation could become dramatic in Argentina.
They are developing a prototype of a respiratory emergency assistance system that can be manufactured by any SME that has a laser cutting machine, such as the graphic companies.
“The lack of an artificial respirator will be the reason why many people are going to die, probabilistically. For this reason we face this project, which is not a respirator, nor is it a medical device, but rather an assistance tool at the moment. that there is a sanitary collapse, “Sebastián Chuffer, one of the members of this group who also includes Jeanette Acosta and Lucas Vasarotto, explained to this newspaper.
The device, which seeks to be a corporate solution, is called CARMA that automates the pressure action of the AMBU (Airway Mask Bag Unit), the resuscitator that must be pumped by a health professional by hand to support the entry and exit of air from the patient’s lungs.
What makes CARMA easier is that this manual action is mechanically automated so that it is not necessary for a health professional to operate it. This is thanks to the fact that the device has sensors that allow monitoring the patient’s condition.
These stages are being validated by the medical team that joined the initiative. As it is a collaborative initiative, not only doctors but also engineers, robotics experts, government authorities and actors from various fields are already part of it to bring improvements. The RespirAr community already has more than 2,000 people.
“We are also working with big data professionals because we want to have an accurate model to predict the demand for respirators, especially because we know that the Córdoba factory is at full capacity,” added Chuffer.
In Córdoba there are two plants of artificial respirators, Leistung and Tecme. And they make up the group of just five factories of these products in all of Latin America. Although both supply different countries, at the moment they have focused on doing so only in the domestic market.
Another advantage of Carma is that it can be manufactured in one hour at a cost that can range from $ 150 to $ 200 and, as stated, does not depend on a factory or plant but can be built in a totally decentralized way.
Both the Adox and ADIMRA project and RespirAr are, in addition to collaborative, non profit. In other words, both designed an alternative for them to manufacture, produce third parties, and to quickly resolve an emergency in the country in the face of the aggressive advance of the coronavirus.
“Within the framework of our CSR plan, ADIMRA would be in a position to donate, initially, 100 complete kits in a period of one week and could help other people or institutions contribute in similar or greater amounts, and we would also provide the support adequate technician so that they can successfully complete the task, “said Orlando Castellani, president of ADIMRA.
The RespirAr group, meanwhile, is advancing with two other initiatives, also aimed at providing assistance to the health system. One of them is “facial displays” and the other is “3D makers”. The first consists of screens that create a barrier between healthcare professionals and patients infected with the virus. Makers 3D, meanwhile, gathers information about masks, valves, spare parts and health supplies that can be easily manufactured, also with the aim of helping the system at the time of saturation.
Automotive and universities
To these two initiatives was added the Toyota which will produce breathing supports, that is, an aid to keep the patient alive until he is connected to a respirator.
Through a statement, the subsidiary of the Japanese company reported that it has made the Zárate production plant available to the national government to help alleviate the health crisis, with two actions to be implemented in the short term.
One of them aimed at producing mechanical respiratory support for emergency medical care, and the other, increasing the production capacity of local manufacturers of mechanical respirators by supplying parts through Toyota’s production system.
It is a project that is analyzed jointly with the national government in order to be quickly implemented.
Finally, the National University of Rosario (UNR) is also moving in a similar direction. Franco Bartolacci, rector of that university, anticipated that the production of low-cost devices with specific effects for cases of Covid-19 will be developed and financed.
The cost will be equivalent to 10% or 20% of artificial respirators that range between $ 2,000 and $ 4,000 and, once the project is completed, which could be completed in the coming days, it will be made available from the authorities to manufacture about 100 devices per week.
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