The HSE and the IDA are in discussions to procure more ventilators from manufacturers as global demand for the life-saving machines soars in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It is not clear how many ventilators Ireland would need if a projected 15,000 Covid-19 cases by month’s end became a reality here. However, Health Minister Simon Harris has confirmed that the discussions are ongoing with manufacturers.
His assurance follows concerns earlier this week about the number of ventilators available here and comes as the US and UK join other Covid-19-hit countries in a scramble for more of the machines.
In Germany, which has 25,000 ventilators, the government recently placed an order with a local manufacturer for an additional 10,000 machines.
Other countries, however, are not as well-equipped.
In Italy, which has 35,000 Covid-19 cases and has had nearly 3,000 deaths, health authorities confirmed a shortage of ventilators and warned other countries to stock up.
Earlier this week, respiratory consultant Oisín O’Connell urged the Government to protect the country’s stock of ventilators.
Dr O’Connell said Italy had advised Ireland to increase its stock of ventilators by more than tenfold.
Mr Harris confirmed that the IDA and HSE are in discussions with ventilator manufacturers to ensure an adequate supply for hospitals.
At present, the HSE has 500 ventilators and 1,000 respiratory machines, Mr Harris told RTÉ radio. He added that the Government will procure a further 300 ventilators and between 80-90 machines per week thereafter.
It will also look to avail of 164 ventilation rooms in private-hospital facilities.
“We are also in very active talks with companies in Ireland, large companies who produce a lot of ventilators and generally export them,” said Mr Harris. “We need those ventilators. Companies based in Ireland making ventilators, we need them to make them available.”
The news comes as medical device company Medtronic, which has facilities in Galway and Athlone, announced plans to more than double its manufacturing capacity in a bid to meet the global demand for ventilators.
Around half of the ventilators manufactured in the world are made in Ireland, mainly by Medtronic, according to IDA Ireland.
The company currently has 250 staff in its ventilator-manufacturing facility and plans to more than double that number by transferring existing staff from other sites and by hiring additional staff to scale up the production around the clock.
The company said it has already increased production by 40% and is on course to “more than double its capacity” to manufacture and supply the machines.
While demand is outstripping supply globally, Medtronic said it would prioritise supplying “high-risk/high needs areas” on a weekly basis.