One of the symptoms of coronavirus is shortness of breath. In extreme cases help is required to allow patients with COVID-19 to breathe. That is where the use of a ventilator for coronavirus treatment comes into play. A ventilator supports patients who are unable to breathe properly on their own by circulating air into their lungs through a tube inserted into their windpipes. As coronavirus-caused illness attacks the respiratory system, the percentage of patients in hospital in need of ventilation assistance has increased since the pandemic started.

When does one need a ventilator?

The judgment to hook a person up to a ventilator is made when it is clear that the lungs are far too inflamed or injured to  get enough oxygen into the bloodstream and clear out carbon dioxide on their own. It is last resort when less invasive steps, such as an oxygen mask placed over the nose and mouth of a person, fail to deliver what the patient needs.

Hospitals could be overburdened without sufficient ventilators in their stockpiles.It is important to remember that the ventilators themselves are only part of what patients with significant breathing difficulties need, to provide the best care, there also has to sufficient medical personnel who know to operate and monitor a ventilator.  In Italy, doctors were forced to make heart-wrenching judgments on who gets ventilators and who does not as healthcare centers were filled with coronavirus patients. Fearing a similar situation, various countries are taking initiatives to address this issue.

The Indian scenario

To plan for a worst-case scenario, India will need 80-100 times the amount of ventilators available, which means that if there are 40,000 ventilators in the country, we should actually be prepared with 4 lakh ventilators to properly deal with the pandemic at its extreme. Current stats by the Union health ministry’s data show that only 8,432 ventilators are available in the public sector and remaining are in the private sector. Sudip Bagchi, president, Trivitron Healthcare declared that the city of Mumbai has 800 to 1,000 ventilators, while Bengaluru, has approximately 400 ventilators. States like Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh have 1,500 and 1,800 respectively and Kerala has 5,000. There are about 40,000 ventilators across the country which as mentioned above is way lesser than the required amount.

What is India doing to deal with the acute shortage?

According to Medikabazaar, estimates show that the total ventilator market in India is valued at an approximate of Rs 500 crore. The government has told producers that the Andhra Pradesh MedTech Zone (AMTZ), an initiative of the Andhra government, will provide financial support of Rs 40 crore for the large-scale manufacture of ventilators. Rajiv Nath, who heads the Association of Indian Medical Device Industry (AIMED) announced that India can locally produce about 5,500 ventilators per month. Reports confirm that one-third of patients develop acute respiratory distress syndrome in COVID-19 cases and need a ventilator for life support.