LAHORE: In order to overcome the shortage of ventilators during the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of volunteer engineers in Pakistan have designed a device that allows a single ventilator to support up to four patients at a time with the help of splitter valves.
A group of volunteers from all over Pakistan joined hands to develop affordable solutions for fighting the ongoing pandemic. There are doctors, biomedical professionals, engineers, academics, resource mobilisers and people from all walks of life in this group of 100 members and they are being joined by other volunteers as well. These Pakistani professionals aim to use 3D printing to manufacture ventilators, valves and required equipment for combatting coronavirus.
Dr Bilal Siddiqui (PhD) started this group and initially started putting things together with his students. Later, he started approaching other professionals to develop low cost ventilators, portable oxygen supplies, face masks and protection screens, respiratory valves, viral media tubes, non-contact thermometre and retrofitting existing vents to serve multiple patients.
24-year-old engineer Muhammad Abdullah Afzal is a graduate of University of Engineering and Technology (UET) Faisalabad Campus and is currently based in Lahore. He decided to create splitter valves along with his team when he learned that doctors in countries where the pandemic is worse have to choose between patients because of a shortage of ventilators. “It does not cost much can be used to provide care to multiple patients at a time,” he said.
He also said that it took the team about three to four days to prepare the value and they have already started supplying it to various hospitals in Lahore, including Sheikh Zayed, Mayo Hospital, Doctors Hospital and in other cities as well. “We have a whole team to receive queries and we soon follow up with their demands,” he added.
“Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre (SKMCH&RC) has tested it but they are still holding meetings to formally approve its usage. Once they decide on it, they will inform us. I am hopeful that this will be approved because it is being used in many countries under emergency circumstances,” Afzal said.
He said that saving lives is more important than certifications. “We have prepared comprehensive guidelines in consultation with international doctors who are in the country and we provide that guide along with the valves. Moreover, several papers have been written on these valves across the world,” he added.
He further said that so far, they have received good feedback from a lot of hospitals. “Six of us are currently working on this project but people from across the country are joining us as well,” he added.
It is worth mentioning here that a healthcare provider in South Carolina, United States, had also created a device that allowed a single ventilator to support up to four patients at a time for combatting COVID-19. The ventilation expansion splitter can be produced cheaply with a 3D printer. The valve is attached to the ventilator and splits out the oxygen to patients. It also allows the flow of oxygen to be adjusted and optimized for each person. It is only meant for use in emergency situations where access to a ventilator could be a life-and-death matter.