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Desi jugaad to solve ventilator shortage

Sangeetha Chengappa Bengaluru | Updated on March 30, 2020 Published on March 30, 2020

Pankaj Gupta, Managing Partner of Singapore-based EthAum Venture Partners, has started a nationwide collaboration to design, build and donate 10,000 plus 4-way Ventilator Splitters to Indian hospitals.

A Splitter is a simple mechanical device that can split oxygen flow up to four patients at a time, making it a cost-efficient, scalable and quick way to save Covid-19 afflicted lives.

A week ago, Gupta tweeted “Need volunteers in all the major cities:Considering, we may run out of #ventilators pretty quickly, we need to work on a 4-way #splitter solution to save lives. Splitter solution will be truly fast & cost-efficient way of saving 1,000s of lives.”

His tweet drew more than 200 volunteers across the country, who have volunteered to work on not just Splitters but also PPEs, and other related solutions. The volunteers include engineers, doctors, 3D printers, investors, policy makers, entrepreneurs and product managers, who have formed a Covid-19 Fighters Group on WhatsApp and Slack.

“The country’s hospitals are equipped with only 30,000 ventilators. As we speak, 10,000 ventilators are in the process of getting manufactured and delivered. Within the next two weeks the country will have 40,000 ventilators. However, this number may be grossly inadequate as experts estimate that 10 million Indians will get severely infected with coronavirus as the community transmission phase has begun. Considering we may not have enough time, money and resources to design a new cost-efficient ventilator to combat this situation, we came up with the idea of increasing usage of existing ventilators through splitters,” Gupta told BusinessLine.

At first, he ran a hackathon to create scalable mechanical ventilators that are cost-efficient. Then realising that engineers have no access to computer/testing labs, mentors, etc as they were restricted to their homes, Gupta decided to use open source designs of splitters which he tested at a hospital in Jaipur but, he faced issues with fitting the splitter to the ventilator. He then started a Twitter thread calling for volunteers and bounced back with a revised splitter design based on feedback from doctors. Version 2 of the splitter was tested and liked by doctors from a few hospitals across the country including SKIMS in Srinagar, SMS Hospital in Jaipur and Victoria Hospital in Bengaluru.

Gupta says orders for 2-way and 4-way splitters are steadily coming in from hospitals across the country. “Each ventilator has the capacity to push 2,000 ml of oxygen per minute into the lungs – enough for 280-kg body weight. Ventilators run only 20-30 per cent of their full capacity because patients do not weigh so much. Therefore, each ventilator can provide enough oxygen for four people who weigh 70 kg each. Doctors also want individual flow controllers for each channel, so we are now developing and testing this feature in Bengaluru in the next two days.”

“We have tested our splitters on GE, Philips, Siemens and Servo i ventilators. Deliveries of 2-way and 4-way splitters to hospitals will begin by the end of this week” said Gupta.

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Published on March 30, 2020
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