As part of efforts to combat the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the Indian government is planning to build an additional 40,000 ventilators for emergency treatment.
Joint Secretary in the Health Ministry Lav Agarwal told The Hindu the ministry had asked a “PSU to make 10,000 ventilators and another 30,000 will come from Bharat Electricals, a PSU under the defence ministry." The Hindu reported the 40,000 ventilators would be ready by June.
“Ventilator shortage has been an issue that the government has been closely monitoring, and several steps are being taken to ensure hospitals are well equipped and face no shortage of ventilators that are essential in managing critical COVID-19 patients,” Agarwal was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times.
It is estimated that India has about 40,000 ventilators in operation currently, which experts say is grossly inadequate if novel coronavirus cases were to surge. Statistics from China showed that five per cent of all novel coronavirus patients needed ventilator support.
The Print reported that "Union health ministry’s data shows there are only 8,432 ventilators in the public sector in India". The additional orders are likely to be for government hospitals, which are currently the focal points of the fight against coronavirus.
“There is a pressing need of ventilators in India and a huge disparity in their availability in various states. For instance, Mumbai alone has 800 to 1,000 ventilators, while states such as Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh have 1,500 and 1,800, respectively. The city of Bengaluru has approximately 400 ventilators, whereas Kerala has 5,000,” Sudip Bagchi, president, Trivitron Healthcare, was quoted as saying by The Print.
Earlier this month, the government eased controls on manufacture of ventilators. Live Mint reported on Friday that the government has tapped a variety of companies, including automakers, to make ventilators.
Live Mint reported, "The Union government had on Tuesday reached out to five automakers—Tata Motors Ltd, Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd (M&M), Hyundai Motor India Ltd, Honda Cars India Ltd and Maruti Suzuki India Ltd—to explore the possibility of making ventilators at their plants." Live Mint added Tata Motors may start manufacturing ventilators by next week.
However, a pressing concern for the government and manufacturers is the disruption in supply chains of component manufacturers, particularly in China and parts of Europe, due to the coronavirus situation. The Print quoted an official as saying the government may airlift components for ventilators on an emergency basis.