Canada creates stockpile of ventilators since COVID
In Canada, as the race to procure ventilators for COVID-19 patients raged early in the pandemic, researchers, scientists, industry and eminent astrophysicists rushed to design machines that could be rapidly manufactured domestically. I was working on it “day and night”.
The Montreal-based competition, which brought together a group of scientists and engineers, including Queen’s University Professor Emeritus Art McDonald, co-winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics, included a variety of initiatives.
According to McDonald, Cristiano Galbiati, a colleague and physics professor at Princeton University and an Italian lab, reached out from Milan during the lockdown in early 2020 and developed a technique to detect dark matter. could be applied to manufacture low-cost ventilators.
At that time, some countries were busy increasing the number of ventilators. A ventilator pumped oxygen into the patient’s lungs through a tracheal tube to help him breathe.
There was also concern that physicians would have to decide which patients should be prioritized for the scarce ventilators.
But in the months after the pandemic, they learned that ventilators weren’t always the best option, especially for older patients with chronic illnesses. Since then, the use of machines has decreased dramatically.
Still, by the fall of 2020, thousands of ventilators were expected to be manufactured in response to multiple contracts won by the federal government in the spring. Procurement is also an essential component of emergency preparedness, but instead, more efforts are being made to address staffing and space issues that are perceived as weak points in our healthcare system. Some people wonder if it should have been spent.
Public Services and Procurement Canada said the total cost of Canada’s stockpile of over 27,000 ventilators was $807 million, including $82.5 million for the McDonald Group-designed mechanical ventilator Milano (MVM). said to exceed
Dr. Srinivas Murthy, a specialist in critical care and infectious diseases in Vancouver, said at a time when no one knew how COVID-19 would progress, Canada pushed to procure ventilators, but that included He said he needed personnel, including doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists. – To staff in intensive care units where the machine is used.
“I bought a lot of things that specifically meant ventilators because that’s one of the things I thought I actually needed. Stuff,” he said.
“I definitely think[procurement]is part of any kind of preparation or preparation infrastructure, but without enough staff it doesn’t really help. ‘ said Mercy. Clinical Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia.
From McDonald’s perspective, surplus can still be a valuable asset. Thousands of ventilators remain unused, but the rush to build them is an example of global collaboration at a time of need. Moreover, even as ventilator use declined, the health community was concerned about the potential for highly contagious variants to cause severe illness.
If that happens in the next pandemic, McDonald’s suggested that surplus supply could be a valuable asset.
“I’m lucky that things didn’t get worse,” he said.
Transition from dark matter to ventilators
Working with a global group of scientists conducting large-scale physics experiments involving argon in its liquefied form, McDonald’s is leveraging their skills to create a cheap and inexpensive way to use another type of gas, oxygen. We decided to design a ventilator that was easy to operate.
He said about half of a group of about 450 scientists worked on a ventilator design challenge proposed by his Italian colleague.
“Parts were very hard to come by, so we used our technical experience to completely switch gears to produce what we needed and needed cheaply in a small number of parts. In 10 days. We were able to get the prototype running on the bench,” McDonald said. Deployment in Italy.
It requires fewer mechanical parts and valves than its traditional counterpart, but can be used for adults intubated in the ICU, he said.
To participate in ventilator design, prototyping, and testing efforts, McDonald’s will either invest in the Canadian Atomic Energy Laboratory in Chalk River, Ontario, the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, or the SNOLAB, a deep underground laboratory focused on the study of dark matter. of scientists and engineers. , TRIUMF, the physics laboratory at the University of British Columbia, and the McDonald Laboratory at Queen’s University named after him.
The McDonald’s team’s proposal for a more developed Canadian-made ventilator, along with other proposals, had already been selected days before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s March 2020 press conference when he spoke about procuring medical equipment. I got
Prime Minister Trudeau called for ventilators to be manufactured domestically “as much as possible and as soon as possible.”
McDonald said the Italian government did not sign a contract for MVM, even though it was certified for use in Europe, and large-scale production of MVM took place only in Canada.
The McDonald’s Group design, which was submitted to Health Canada in June 2020, received emergency approval in September of the same year. The ventilators were manufactured in Markham, Ontario, about a month later, and by February 2021, about 7,000 machines had shipped to the National Emergency Strategic Stockpile, he said.
After all, most ventilators weren’t needed, so they weren’t required by the states or territories.
Thousands of ventilators for the future
Public Health Canada says approximately 24,500 of the more than 27,000 ventilators currently in the national stockpile are manufactured in Canada by five major manufacturers, most of them for patients requiring long-term ventilation. I said I could.
Prior to the pandemic, the stockpile held about 500 ventilators, it said in a written statement.
“Based on the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, PHAC is working closely with states, territories and other partners to define needs and continue to prepare for future public health emergencies. We will continue to provide information about
As part of an effort to sell surplus supplies, the government has donated 539 ventilators to India, Pakistan and Nepal, the agency said, working with manufacturers to train local medical clinicians and technicians. He added that he encouraged requested.
For McDonald’s, rapid action by scientists, engineers and manufacturers who want to make a difference has always stood out. And so is his Zoom call of more than 100 people who worked “day and night” to design and test prototypes.
“That ability exists, and we are always looking for ways we can apply it for the benefit of society.”
I did my best to push the students into the competition.
Tanya Bennett, who holds a doctorate in biomedical engineering from the University of British Columbia, was competing with seven others when she entered a ventilator design competition launched by the Montreal General Hospital Foundation and the McGill University Health Center. I remember the lack of sleep my students gladly endured.
“There were a lot of nights where I was taking shifts in terms of sleep and work,” said respiratory researcher Bennett.
Due to supply issues, some parts were unavailable, such as the valves that control the volume and pressure of air in the ventilator.
“I was very lucky that one of our group thought of himself as a bit of a tinkerer,” said Bennett. “He had some of the machines you would normally find in a machine shop in a garage, so he was able to build things that could never have been built in a conventional home.”
The UBC group spent more than three months working on the design, but it was eventually shelved because they didn’t need to add a ventilator.
However, the experience prompted Bennett to switch from respiratory research to another field.
“I am involved in the development of medical devices to solve clinical problems that arise.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 22, 2023.
The Canadian Press’ health coverage is supported through a partnership with the Canadian Medical Association.