ABC News: Australia to build 2,000 life-saving ventilators to prepare for coronavirus peak


Australia’s intensive care units will have access to 2,000 more ventilators by the end of July, as the Government prepares for the coronavirus epidemic to weigh on the current supply.

Key points:

  • Supply of the ventilators will begin in June
  • The Federal Government struck a $31 million deal with industry to build the machines
  • All of the machines will be intensive-care grade

A consortium of companies has been enlisted by the Federal Government to produce the invasive ventilators, which offer last-ditch support for patients who are unable to breathe on their own.

All the ventilators will be able to be used in intensive care units.

Industry Minister Karen Andrews said the Government had struck a $31 million agreement with manufacturers to produce the ventilators.

“This deal demonstrates the power of bringing Aussie manufacturers and clinicians together and is also a reflection of the highly advanced manufacturing capability that exists in our country,” she said.

“It also shows the incredible collaborative spirit that’s been on display as we respond to this unprecedented pandemic.

“Companies which are normally in competition are working together for the greater good.”

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth said the move to onshore production of ventilators was “of critical importance”.

“This is a major change in our manufacturing capacity within Australia to assist the ventilators that are already being procured,” he said.

“We have set ourselves a national target of 7,500, building on the over 4,400 existing ventilators.”

Dr Coatsworth said they were well on their way to that target.

He said as well as domestic production, the Government was waiting on the delivery of 5,500 ventilators from medical supply company Resmed.

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Mobilising workforce to care for the critically ill

Dr Coatsworth said work was also being done to mobilise as many health professionals as possible in the effort to take care of coronavirus patients.

“We are looking at every doctor in the country who has capacity to manage an unconscious patient,” he said.

“In particular a collaboration between our Colleges of Intensive Care Medicine and College of Anaesthetists to make sure our anaesthetic workforce is able to move into an intensive care environment and assist in helping severely unwell COVID-19 patients.”

Dr Coatsworth said the two measures would help to prevent a “bottleneck” of patients in intensive care, putting pressure on resource and staff numbers.

Invasive ventilators work by effectively breathing for patients in a critical condition.

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There are currently more than 2,000 ventilators attached to ICU beds in Australian hospitals, with today’s announcement representing a near-doubling of supply.

The consortium responsible for making the ventilators consists of manufacturing and engineering companies and will be led by Victoria-based Grey Innovation.

Executive chair Jefferson Harcourt said he was “overwhelmed by the willingness of our industry colleagues to respond in this critical hour of need”.

Supply of the machines will begin in June, with the rollout set to complete by July.

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Topics: government-and-politics, infectious-diseases-other, federal-government, health, respiratory-diseases, covid-19, community-and-society, australia