By March, it was well understood by the medical fraternity and policymakers that it was a matter of time when the cases of coronavirus would rise and hospitals around the country would need more medical equipment to deal with the influx of patients.
The availability of PPE and ventilators were considered the most crucial factor.
Empowered group to combat COVID-19
In order to be prepared for any unforeseen difficult situation, the government set up an empowered working group of defence scientists to manage COVID-19 that took several measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
One of the important aspects of their function was to collaborate with domestic medical equipment manufacturers to provide affordable solutions to the hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients.
DRDO technologies to help manufacture affordable ventilators
One such domestic manufacturers was Mysore-based Skanray Technologies, which in collaboration with Defence PSU Bharat Electricals Ltd, has been able to manufacture affordable ventilator using spinoff DRDO technology.
Dr Jagdish Hiremath, managing director of Ace Suhas Hospital, who worked on this project, said, " critical care medical ventilators (CCMV) designed and built by Skanray making use of the Bharat Electricals Ltd (BEL) technology succeeded in bringing down the cost considerably. It's a robust ventilator system and we will soon transform the same into a super-intelligent ventilator," The Pioneer reported him saying.
Steps towards self-reliance
Till now, India has been importing various components of ventilators and assembling it here. Believing this would not prove to be a foolproof way especially during these times, Dr Jagdish Hiremath decided to work on ideas so that ventilators could be made within the country without depending on foreign countries.
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"What would happen if there was a disruption in the supply chain? With the imports about 5000 ventilators could be made per year, a number that is far less than what we need now," he said.
On June 3, after clearing the post-production clinical trial, Dr Hiremath began to use the ventilator at his hospital.
Calling it "real love and hard work", Dr Hiremath said that the project took more than 10 years of labour by Skanray and BEL to develop the ventilator that would be effective to ensure patients' safety.
"Skanray has the capability to manufacture 30,000 CCMV per month as on date. Though the system is not a complete one like the products manufactured in foreign countries, these ventilators meet all our requirements and in the course of time, we can equip all primary health centres in the country with these easy to operate and maintain CCMVs," he said.
Though he didn't tell how much it would cost for private hospitals as the ventilators have been manufactured on the order of government, one estimate by The pioneer says that the cost for it comes around Rs 1 lakh.
An ordinary critical care medical ventilators in ICU in its hospitals cost around anything between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 15 lakh.
The government had ordered 30,00 units of the ventilator from Skanray. On Monday, BJP spokesperson Gandhi tweeted a picture of the ventilator with a logo of PM Cares implying the government has procured the first country made ventilators for the treatment of coronavirus patients.