Webinar on ventilator use during Covid-19
The ECCT hosted a webinar on the role of ventilators in the Covid-19 pandemic, covering the medical use of ventilators as well as the business of the ventilator market. The webinar featured the following guest speakers: Lin Hui-ling, Associate Professor and Secretary of the Respiratory Therapists Society of the Republic of China; Anic Liu, Clinical Application Specialist, Philips Healthcare and Dr Lin Chii-wan, Vice President and General Director, Biomedical Technology and Device Research Laboratories, Industrial Technology Research Institute.
In her presentation, Lin Hui-ling gave a brief introduction to the various instances when ventilators are used in Taiwan. She explained that ventilators are only needed for patients whose lungs are not able to get enough oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. According to Lin, the total intubation rate of Covid-19 patients in Taiwan to date has been 5.5%, which is lower than the global average. Given the fact that only a small portion of patients require ventilators, there has so far been no shortage of ventilators in Taiwan. To date, only 24 of Taiwan's Covid-19 patients have needed to be put on ventilators. Moreover, Taiwan has 61 ventilators per 100,000 people, much higher the UK's ratio of 6 and Italy's 12.5.
Lin noted that patients who have been put on ventilators rely on them completely in the beginning but, in most cases, patients are eventually able to breathe normally by themselves and the ventilators can be removed. Regarding the time patients spend on ventilators, Lin said this depends on the severity and duration of each case but the average duration on a ventilator usually ranges from 1-2 weeks.
Lin noted that some patients suffer lasting damage to their lungs from Covid-19 and may still require the use of home ventilators after they are discharged from hospital.
In his presentation, Anic Liu talked about the types and functions of ventilators and compared the market needs in Taiwan versus European countries. He noted that there were two main types of ventilators: those designed for home care and intrusive types designed for intensive care patients in hospitals and professional use. Covid-19 patients have to be put in negative pressure quarantine rooms to make sure that contaminated air is removed and infection is contained.
Liu said the reason why Tesla and Ford can make ventilators is because the engineering process and some of the components used to make cars are similar. While making ventilators is not too difficult for car companies, they nevertheless have to cooperate with professional ventilator makers on the use of components like valves. For this reason, if there is a rise in demand for ventilators, there could be shortage of components like valves.
According to Liu, the cost of professional ventilators is NT$400,000-600,000 while home care versions cost NT$100,000-200,000. Philips currently produces around 6,000 ventilators per month.
Dr Lin Chii-wan spoke about recent ventilator market developments. According to Lin, given the growth rate of Covid-19 patients, there has been a growth in production. While there are no shortages in Taiwan, there are shortages in Europe and the US. However, he made the point that demand will drop off sharply if the pandemic is brought under control.
Ventilators require a number of components including semiconductors, sensors and tubes, which necessitates expertise from many fields. He noted that all of the ventilators in use in Taiwan are imported, although some manufacturers in Taiwan produce components for ventilators. For this reason, the government is helping some local manufacturers to become OEM manufacturers. He reported that ITRI has made some of its prototype patents freely available to help potential manufacturers in this regard.
On a question during the Q&A session of the webinar as to why the SARS crisis did not require a large number of ventilators, Lin said that, at that time, SARS was limited to Asia and was also brought under control fairly quickly, unlike this pandemic, which is global.
For their slides, please refer to the links down below: