President Cyril Ramaphosa says 20 000 locally-produced non-invasive ventilators are to be delivered to health facilities in August.

The National Ventilator Project is currently organising the manufacturing of ventilators to assist patients infected with the coronavirus (COVID-19). South Africa remains among the top five countries with the most infections in the world.

As the country surpassed the 500 000 mark in COVID-19 cases since the start of the outbreak, the office of the Presidency says additional facilities, equipment and personnel are being deployed in provinces still experiencing an increase in infections.

Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel recently announced that the first batch of locally manufactured ventilators came off the assembly line this week, to assist patients struggling to breathe after being infected with the virus.

South Africa’s recovery rate stands at 68% and government says hospitals are prepared to manage a further influx of patients.

Sharing ventilators

A United States study found in June that two COVID-19 patients could safely share a ventilator for up to two days. At the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak, the New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Centre in Manhattan selected pairs of surgery patients with healthy lungs to share a ventilator.

This approach freed up as many machines as possible for COVID-19 patients. However, some medical experts criticised the method, saying it could worsen patients’ outcomes.

“Ventilator sharing does not obviate the need for more ventilators,” Dr. Jeremy Beitler of the New York-Presbyterian Hospital and his team wrote. At most, it could buy some time while relocating ventilators to hospitals or transferring patients to hospitals with the life-saving machines.

“The safety and utility of prolonged ventilator sharing, when ventilators or patients cannot be relocated, is unknown,” the researchers said. – Additional reporting by Reuters.