Ventilators could have cheaper alternatives now

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Ventilators could have cheaper alternatives now

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Wednesday, 1st April 2020

‘Bag Valve Mask’ can be a cheaper substitute for ventilators as claimed by IIT Hyderabad director B.S Murthy. Ventilators may be required by patients who are badly affected by the Coronavirus. Keeping the present situation in mind, Murthy added that the government should consider using bag valve mask as a cheaper alternative to pricey ventilators that are high in demand right now. Common ventilators have many drawbacks. Firstly, they are quite expensive. Secondly, they have very complex and elaborate manufacturing process that cannot meet mass production needs. Thirdly, ventilators are not portable and thus, cannot be shifted easily from one ward to another.


Professor B.S Murthy and V.Eswaran  (Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering; IIT-Hyderabad) jointly opined that Bag Valve Masks or ‘Ambu bags’ being small breathing support apparatus, could come handy in times of emergency. However, scientists add that bag valve masks currently function on hand-driven technology and hence cannot be used non-stop as ventilators.


But, they revealed to the world that the hand-driven technology could easily be replaced by electricity powered technology and in that case, these devices could run continuously helping patients with acute respiratory dysfunction to breathe. A car battery too may be used to power the Bag Valve Mask which may be then transported easily to villages and remote areas where there’s no electric power supply. Also, another good thing is that these devices can be bulk-produced and in quite an inexpensive way. According to the estimates of scientists these devices could be produced at a cost of Rs 5000 or less; i.e. 1/100th of the cost needed for manufacturing ventilators. The low manufacturing costs of Bag Valve Mask could make it a one-time use device that may be used by just one patient at a time and never re-used. This could prove significantly helpful in curbing the spread of infectious outbreaks like COVID-19.


But, as per expert advice, in order to function as an effective ventilator substitute, these devices have to be manufactured in millions and that too within just couple of months. Many have proposed design for these low cost devices within India. From IIT Hyderabad one design has already been received.


If this plan for ventilator substitute is executed successfully, we may get access to better healthcare facilities for the afflicted masses in remote stretches of the country. So, now it’s time to fold our hands in prayer and wait for the best outcome!


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