As the Covid-19 contagion spreads, Mexico waits for critical ventilators

Mexico is now in the most critical phase of the coronavirus pandemic but lacks at least 10,000 ventilators to respond to it adequately, according to an academic at Mexico City’s Metropolitan Autonomous University (UAM).

The federal government declared the commencement of phase three of the pandemic on Tuesday, acknowledging that the number of Covid-19 cases and patients requiring hospitalization is likely to increase rapidly in the coming weeks.

President López Obrador said Sunday that public hospitals will have a total of 13,000 ventilators available for the treatment of coronavirus patients, highlighting that China and the United States have agreed to sell Mexico almost 2,500 of the machines.

However, as things stand, the country only has 5,200 ventilators, says Joaquín Azpiroz Leehan, a biomedical engineering professor at UAM. “At least another 10,000 are needed,” he told the newspaper Milenio.

“According to data from the Health Ministry,” Azpiroz added, Mexico has one ventilator per 22,813 residents whereas Canada has one for every 12,000 people and has “already declared a crisis.”

Ventilators are a key piece of equipment in the treatment of Covid-19 patients.
Ventilators are a key piece of equipment in the treatment of Covid-19 patients.

“That shows the level of scarcity in our country,” he said.

While the government waits for ventilators deliveries from China and the United States that are expected to commence this week, universities and private companies are moving ahead with their own plans to manufacture the vital medical machines.

Researchers at UAM and the National Autonomous University are currently collaborating on the design of a ventilator and expect to have the first 1,000 made by June or July, Milenio reported. The researchers are seeking agreements with companies including Ford and Mabe to manufacture at least 10,000 units.

Thirty-five private companies have already committed to contributing to a project that intends to manufacture 15,000 ventilators to treat coronavirus patients, Enoch Castellanos, president of the National Chamber for Industrial Transformation, said earlier this month, while the National Council of Science and Technology has indicated that it has the capacity to produce up to 500 ventilators per week.

However, as the new coronavirus spreads rapidly in many parts of the country and with hospital admissions expected to increase sharply in May, everyone involved in the manufacture and acquisition of ventilators will be racing against the clock.

It remains to be seen whether Mexico will ultimately have enough of the machines to treat critically-ill Covid-19 patients – as López Obrador has promised – or whether it will face the same shortages as other countries that have had large outbreaks of the disease.

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