Due to its high population density, Bangladesh has been considered to be a COVID-19 hotspot ever since the wake of the pandemic. While people are slowly adapting to the new normal and have started to return to their regular lives by complying with safety protocols, one question remains. Will Bangladeshis have adequate ventilators at their disposal in case a second wave of the pandemic strikes?
A ventilator, in the simplest of terms, is a piece of medical equipment that enables a patient to artificially breathe when his/her lung collapses. In the meantime, the patient’s lungs get enough time to recover and take over the breathing process. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), some 80 percent of people with Covid-19 recover without needing hospital treatment. But one in six people becomes seriously ill. In these severe cases, the virus causes damage to the lungs, causing the body’s oxygen levels to drop, making it harder to breathe. To alleviate this, a ventilator is used to push air with increased levels of oxygen into the lungs. Thus, a ventilator is a must-have for the COVID-19 patients who are at the most critical phase. While many local companies in Bangladesh have tried to come up with ventilators, many of the raw materials need to be sourced from outside – making the manufacturing process more complicated. And with roughly 1 ventilator available for every 3.4 lakh people, the need to have more ventilators in Bangladesh is more than ever before.
The good thing is that local companies and several other institutions have risen to the occasion and have started to take their initiatives. Companies like Walton, MyOne, RFL are on their way to design and build their ventilators. The Military Institute of Science and Technology (MIST), the armed forces, a2i (Access to Information) Innovation Lab, and BUET are also trying to develop these life-saving equipment. Walton has stated that they are also trying to make Power Air Purifier Respirator (PAPR), Oxygen concentrator, UV Disinfectant, Safety Goggles alongside ventilators for the betterment of the people of Bangladesh.
Since ventilators are mostly arranged to be installed in hospitals, that too where COVID-19 patients are being treated, brands have not been at the forefront of public consideration. Ventilators like Siemens Maquet Servo-i, Puritan Bennett 840, Respironics V200, Hamilton T1 Transport are some of the most renowned and reliable ventilators that are currently being used worldwide to combat the pandemic. And they are quite exorbitantly priced as well! Ventilators to be imported from Europe will cost around BDT 18-20 lakhs and if procured from China, will cost around BDT 7-8 lakhs.
Interestingly, some startups from all across the globe have started to come up with innovative solutions to tackle the unavailability of ventilators. Biodesign Innovation Labs of India is a medical device and healthcare technology company, which develops affordable and accessible life-saving innovations such as indigenous respiratory support devices for reducing mortality in low-resource healthcare settings and developing innovative mechanical ventilation devices. They have developed a low-cost device called RespirAid – which is a portable ventilator that can stabilize the patient during a respiratory arrest by mechanically providing intermittent positive pressure ventilation at specific desired ventilator parameters. However, Biodesign Innovation Labs also need major capital backing to manufacture their innovation on a large scale.
Only time will tell when and if the second wave of this threatening pandemic will hit the world. Until then, necessary actions must be taken to ensure the physical wellbeing and general safety of the masses. Governments and other international organizations must collaborate to ensure this global shortage of ventilators are met. Preventive measures from this deadly pandemic have already reached the masses. It’s time we have enough ventilators in place so that precious lives can be saved.