As the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases rise, Australia’s medical system is bracing for a shortage of essential equipment, including hospital ventilators.
In Melbourne, an online community of programmers, engineers and doctors are working together to find a solution to what has become a global shortage of the lifesaving device.
Hospital ventilators are expensive to make and currently go through a lengthy testing and certification process, which can take years.
Inspired by an from 2010, Melbourne-based programmer Brady Slot is working to design a low-cost, and reliable mechanical ventilator to help Covid-19 patients experiencing critical respiratory problems.
“Ventilators are very expensive and there’s a very limited number of them and the companies that manufacture them can’t manufacture them fast enough, so in light of that, we need an alternate source of ventilation,” Mr Slot told The Feed.
“To be able to produce a ventilator that is low cost, easy to produce and with readily available parts could actually be a real, real game changer right now.”
Brady Slot working on a ventilator prototype. Source: SBS
Brady started an online Discord channel where developers, engineers and medical experts have joined to help him build and test the ventilator design - including Cardiothoracic anaesthetist and University of Melbourne senior lecturer David Canty.
“This project is very important...it could save many lives as there may not be enough time, or people, to produce the vast number of ventilators required,” Dr Canty said.
“We really are worried that doctors will be forced to let people die when they could have been saved if they had ventilators.”
Dr Canty has assembled a team of medical researchers from the University of Melbourne and Monash Health to test the ventilator as it progresses through the design process.
Mr Slot told The Feed his prototype could be ready for testing in a matter of days.
“Demand needs to be met or people will die needlessly, so I’m doing everything that I can in order to prevent that from being the catastrophe that unfolds.”
Brady isn’t alone. Hundreds of engineers and programmers around the world are working on a low-cost emergency ventilator design.
Many have shared their progress and open-source designs on Facebook.
Mr Slot says the international collaboration online is enhancing the design process.
“Being able to draw from a world worth of ideas is really, really interesting because there are things you would never think of,” he said.
“If you see it on someone else’s, you think ‘damn that’s really good, I need that’, and so you add it to yours.”
Australians must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.