By Eduard Ribas i Admetlla
Mexico City, Jun 6 (efe-epa).- A shortage of ventilators for Covid-19 patients has forced Mexico to import them, but that is set to change in the coming weeks when a no-frills version made entirely of domestically sourced parts enters production.
The 28-member biomedical engineering team at the Salvador Zubiran National Institute of Medical Science and Nutrition developed the VSZ-20 ventilator in a record time of less than two months.
Some coronavirus patients reach a point where they can no longer breathe on their own, requiring “support from a ventilator that performs the functions of the lungs,” the head of the team, Fanny Alvarado, told Efe.
Use of ventilators has exploded due to the pandemic, which has already claimed more than 13,000 lives in the Aztec nation, and Mexico imported 2,000 of the devices from the United States last month “Seeing the necessity that began to surge at the global level, we sought a way to obtain ventilators. Unfortunately, they were either unavailable or quite expensive,” Alvarado said. “What we did was to go over what we could do to support (the medical system) in this pandemic.”
Weeks later, the manufacturers the institute has enlisted in the project are just waiting for approval from health authorities to begin mass production of the VSZ-20.
“It will be to support all the hospitals in Mexico and if at some moment it’s needed in other countries, we will certainly be able to commercialize it,” the engineer said.
The original idea was for the institute to produce the ventilators, but the developers reached agreements with several metalworking firms to boost output from three units per week to 300.
The VSZ-20 is expected to carry a price tag of $10,000, half what an imported ventilator costs, offering a more affordable option for hospitals in coronavirus hot spots such as Mexico City – where 72 percent of intubation beds are occupied – to expand capacity.
“It’s not a high-end or mid-range ventilator. It will serve for the emergency. It’s purely mechanical and its parts are made in Mexico,” engineer Juan Jesus Mejia says.
A piston-driven pump keeps the patient’s lungs open.
“Any kind of ventilator requires previous training,” Mejia says. “It’s not just connect the machine and you’re done. It’s understanding various important parameters such as volume, pressure, the resistance of the patient.”
The team who created the VSZ-20 work in the basement of a busy public hospital in the capital that currently has no ventilators to spare.
While the ventilator project has been the priority for the engineers, they have also worked to address shortages of other vital items.
Jose Ruben Fuentes hit on the idea of using a 3D printer to fabricate an adapter capable of making a dive mask a suitable substitute for standard medical masks and goggles.
The basement team has assembled and distributed some 500 of the modified dive masks among the doctors and nurses at the hospital.
“What the doctors tell us is that this doesn’t hamper the respiration mechanism,” Fuentes says of his invention.
But alongside the strains the pandemic imposes on resources to treat patients and equipment to protect health workers, the high volume of coronavirus fatalities is overwhelming hospital morgues and coroners’ offices.
To ease that situation, the engineers at the institute put together a refrigerated chamber with germicidal UVC lights to disinfect bodies. EFE err/dry