Amid global rush, Jamaica has 40 more ventilators on order, says Tufton

Amid global rush, Jamaica has 40 more ventilators on order, says Tufton

Executive editor — publications

Thursday, March 26, 2020

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JAMAICA'S stock of ventilators to help treat COVID-19 patients is to be increased with the addition of another 40 of the machines which are now on on order, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton revealed on Monday.

“We just got some new ones and we ordered 40,” Dr Tufton told the Jamaica Observer after a news conference at Jamaica House where he, Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie gave the country an update on the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and measures to stem its spread across the island.

The 40 ventilators, Tufton said, will add to the 25 already in use and the three that arrived in the island on Monday.

Asked if that number of ventilators would be able to meet the expected needs, Tufton said: “Yes, that's enough based on the projection.”

On Tuesday, Dr Bisasor-McKenzie, in acknowledging that a number of countries have ordered ventilators in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak worldwide, said Jamaica is sourcing the machines from suppliers that the local authorities know can deliver.

“I think we're supposed to get another seven between this week and next week,” Dr Bisasor-McKenzie told the Observer. “Our aim is that by the end of the month, certainly by the end of two months, we would expect to have all 40.”

She also said that between 23 and 25 additional ventilators are expected to arrive through the Programme for the Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality. “Those we should get before we get the full 40. They have been on order for some time. In fact, we had hoped that they would have arrived this week,” she said.

The supply of ventilators has, for a long time, been a sore point in the island's public health system.

Last Friday, Guardian Life Limited and Guardian Group Foundation donated a ventilator valued at $4.3 million to Victoria Jubilee Hospital's Neo-Natal Ward and, by extension, Kingston Public Hospital.

With health experts projecting that at least five per cent of COVID-19 patients could need a ventilator, the supply issue took on greater urgency in recent weeks, resulting in the world being faced with a shortage of the machines.

Reports out of the United States, where COVID-19 has claimed more than 700 lives and infected over 53,000 people, say that hospitals have between 160,000 and 172,000 ventilators, many of which are already in use by patients suffering from other ailments.

Italy, which recorded its first coronavirus death in February and now has more fatalities than China with 6,077, as well as 63,927 declared infections with 7,432 recoveries, has ordered thousands of ventilators.

The Mediterranean country is said to have four severe acute respiratory patients coming in for every one ventilator.

In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service is reported to have approximately 5,000 ventilators and another 900 for children, but urgently needs 20,000 more.

A report in Fortune Magazine this week stated that over the next three months, access to ventilators could mean the difference between recovery and death for thousands, if not millions, of patients.

“This makes the question of how to build them quickly and cheaply one of the world's most urgent design challenges,” the Fortune article said.

On Tuesday this week, American automaker Ford announced that it is working with 3M to increase production of 3M's current respirator device as well as a new kind of powered air-purifying respirator for health care workers.

Also, General Motors has said it is exploring the feasibility of building ventilators for Ventec Life Systems at one of its plants in Indiana.

At the same time, Tesla boss Elon Musk has offered to start manufacturing ventilators for COVID-19 patients, if necessary. “We will make ventilators if there is a shortage,” Musk said on Twitter.

He was encouraged to do so by doctors and politicians who said many hospitals around the USA will have a shortage of breathing machines as the pandemic progresses.

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