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SA engineers produce two mechanical ventilator prototypes for COVID-19 patients

Government has tasked experts at the Square Kilometre Array with testing the most promising technologies to conceptualise a local ventilator design.

FILE: Local ventilator designs must be reliable, cost effective and easy to operate. Picture: 123rf.

CAPE TOWN - Engineers at the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory have produced two mechanical ventilator prototypes.

This forms part of the national ventilator project, which aims to address the anticipated ventilator shortage during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Government has tasked experts at the Square Kilometre Array with testing the most promising technologies to conceptualise a local ventilator design.

Local ventilator designs must be reliable, cost effective and easy to operate.

One of the devices produced by Radio Astronomy Observatory provides continuous positive airway pressure that delivers a mixture of oxygen and air at a constant pressure to the patient.

This device will have a non-invasive ventilation mask, or a hood attached to it.

Engineering team head Willem Esterhuyse said they had consulted with medical experts and had compiled a specification of the ventilator device most urgently needed.

“The pressure that's provided assists with keeping the alveoli open, it provides more oxygen than you would normally get. So, with a little bit of luck, the patient will actually recover from this virus and never need to go on to invasive ventilation.”

Esterhuyse estimates the prototyping phase will be completed in May, with production earmarked to start in just over a month from now.