By Patrick Garcia
With the growing global demand for and acute shortage of medical supplies and equipment needed for treating COVID-19 patients, a team of Filipino engineers are now developing cheap ventilators to help cope with this urgent problem.
In a Facebook post Thursday, Don Bosco Technical College (DBTC) Rector/President Fr. Chito Dimaranan announced the plan of engineers from the Don Bosco Mandaluyong Innovision Center under the supervision of engineer Romel Pasia to develop and produce open-source ventilators to be distributed to various hospitals in the country.
“Bosconians all over the world: I am calling on you to support a team of fellow Bosconian engineers based in Manila, Cebu, Singapore, USA, and others who are right now developing a workable, doable, and cheap ventilator,” Dimaranan wrote in a Facebook post.
“They can only do so if we have the funds to do a prototype. PLEASE HELP. Contact DBMAAI (Don Bosco Mandaluyong Alumni Association, Inc.) President Fletcher Aquino for your donations and help. We can do it. Together, let us do it!” Dimaranan said in his post.
The ventilators are said to be based on an MIT-Boston Medical University design.
Marlou Madrio, an IT professional and Rail practitioner in Singapore who is also a Don Bosco alumnus and the designer of the prototype, said Bosconian engineers will later iterate the prototype and mass-produce it afterwards.
“We started two weeks ago answering to the call of Fr. Chito Dimaranan, SDB to Bosconian engineers to develop an open source ventilator,” Madrio told the Manila Bulletin. “We are applying robotics to actuate a medical device known as an Ambu bag.”
‘Ambu bag’ is the proprietary name for a device known generically as a manual resuscitator or a bag valve mask. It is used to provide positive pressure ventilation to patients who are not breathing adequately.
Madrio also told Manila Bulletin that he has roped in fellow Bosconians and a Singaporean to help in the development of the ventilators.
“We are waging a guerrilla warfare against this unseen enemy and we are a rebel force alliance,” Madrio said.
He told Manila Bulletin that his time table to finish the design reference prototype is three weeks.
“This is our gift to society. A project with social dimension,” he said.
Earlier, Madrio wrote in a Facebook post “Time is of the essence. There are only 1,253 commercial ventilators in the Philippines, 153 of which [are] in Metro Manila. We are 105 million Filipinos with only 89,000 hospital bed capacity.”
The world is scrambling to source ventilators, writes Jose Luis Penarredonda in an April 1 BBC article: “An influential report from Imperial College London estimates that 30 percent of Covid-19 hospitalised patients are likely to require mechanical ventilation…[thus] a ventilator shortage remains imminent in many parts of the world, as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plea for 30,000 units shows.”
(Photos from Marlou Madrio)