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GPS to prevent misuse of ventilators

The indigenously manufactured ventilators are being embedded with Global Positioning System (GPS) chips to track if their locations in hospitals change as part of efforts to prevent their misuse.  The Union Health Ministry has created a dashboard for tracking the real-time status of ventilators dispatched, delivered, and installed for monitoring and feedback. The ministry is keen that it be possible to track the location of each of these devices so that it can keep track in real-time if a ventilator is changing location.  50,000 machines are being funded by PM Cares Fund, that has contributed Rs 2000 crore.

The government has constituted an empowered group to address issues and encourage the domestic industry to manufacture ventilators and ramp up their production. And 36 WhatsApp groups have been created, one group for each state and Union territory, consisting of doctors, suppliers, and government officials for handholding and resolving any issue arising out of the use of the ventilators.

The health ministry has ordered 60,000 ventilators,  and 57600 are indigenous (as against 8500 machines in 2019).  This is a distinct shift from the pre-COVID days, when most were imported machines. With the government push, the prices of machines have dropped from Rs 1,000,000 to Rs 2,000,000 (imported) to Rs 150,000 to Rs 400,000 per unit (Indian supplies). Major domestic players include Skanray (in collaboration with Bharat Electronics Limited) AgVa (in collaboration with Maruti Suzuki Limited), AP Medtech Zone and Allied Medical.

About 18,000 ventilators have been so far supplied to states, central government hospitals, and Defence Research Development Organisation facilities. They have been installed in at least 700 hospitals across the country.

Having said this, almost six months into the pandemic has revealed that  ventilators are no longer the life savior perceived to be earlier. Non-invasive oxygen delivery through nose prongs, using non-invasive ventilation (NIV) or BiPAP mode are sufficient in most cases. The percentage of hospitalised patients on a ventilator has stabilised at 1-2 per cent, while 3-4 per cent need intensive care.

MB Bureau

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