Medical device company Boston Scientific is supporting a project started by an engineer to design and build multiple ventilators to deal with expected demand from Covid-19.
John Wallace, who runs a specialist engineering, is now working with his “Covid Response Team” out of Boston Scientific’s plant in Galway where the US multinational employs 3,700.
The project has already advanced to the point where components for what he styles a “battlefield” ventilator are now being built.
A shortage of ventilators in all countries now under attack from the Coronavirus has been identified as one of the most acute problems facing medical staff.
If the expected surge in infections in this country mirrors what has happened in Italy or Spain the expectation is that the stock of ventilators, used to assist patients to breathe, will not be sufficient to meet demand.
“We are progressing at a rapid pace,” Mr Wallace says. “We have received great support from Boston Scientific and a huge number of others. In fact, in a lot of cases we simply haven’t been able to take up the offers of support because we would be actually flooded by engineers. It reflects a great spirit of co-operation that this crisis has brought on.
Before the crisis there were 1,000 ventilators in Irish public hospitals and another 200 in private care. The HSE is currently engaged in boosting that by 900, but the expected demand could be a multiple of that if the curve of infections is not sufficiently flattened.
In Italy the shortage of ventilators has forced medics to select patients for their use. New York governor Andrew Cuomo this week made a plea for “ventilators, ventilators, ventilators” to save lives in the US’s worst-hit state.
Meanwhile, various groups around the country have come up with innovative ways of raising funds for the not-for-profit battlefield ventilator project.
An appeal under the title ‘Keep Breathing’ on the GoFundMe platform had by yesterday raised €125,684, far exceeding its initial target of €50,000 for the not-for-profit venture.
An initiative called Cut4Covid has been started by a group in Kilkenny in which participants shave their heads, post a before and after video on various social media platforms and request donations to be sent for the project.
“Our main goal is to provide people with relief through humour in these bleak times while donating money to a good cause,” according to Jack McDonald who came up with the idea.
Other fundraising initiatives for the ventilator project have been started by dance clothing company Danceworld, the concert series Hidden Pianos, and Enibas Jewellery company, based in Schull, Co Cork.
Emily Wallace, who is co-ordinating the fundraising in the Covid Response Team said they were delighted at the response. “It really is inspiring for us as a team to see communities pull together at a tough time like this,” he said.