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Wales greenlights emergency ventilation device

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A Welsh anaesthetist, in collaboration with a local manufacturing firm, has designed a ventilator-like machine to support Covid-19 patients with moderate breathing difficulties. The Welsh government has approved the device, allowing for up to 100 to be produced every day.

The machine was designed by Dr Rhys Thomas, a consultant anaesthetist at Glangwili General Hospital in Carmarthen, with local manufacturing company CR Clarke & Co. Thomas said that he was “desperately concerned” about a lack of ventilators to support patients with breathing difficulties amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr Thomas drew on his own experience as a military and hospital doctor and took advice from doctors in Bergamo – located in the hard-hit Italian region of Lombardy – to develop the ventilator-like machine. He was put in touch with CR Clarke & Co by Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price, allowing him to create and trial prototype devices in the space of just three days.

“After designing, constructing and trialling several prototypes in just three days, we came up with a device that worked perfectly,” said Thomas. “It is simple and robust and specifically designed to work against the [Covid-19] virus in a contagious environment.”

“Although it won’t replace an ICU ventilator, the majority of patients won’t need intensive care if they are treated with this ventilator first, releasing ICU ventilators for more serious Covid-19 cases and other general medical cases.”

The continuous positive airway pressure machine also filters viral particles out of a room, allowing for purified air to be delivered to patients. It has already been used to treat a Covid-19 patient in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, who is said to be recovering well.

According to Thomas, the machine allows the patient to largely care for themselves, releasing nurses and other healthcare professionals for other duties.

Ventilator-like device designed in Wales

Image credit: PA Media

The device, which will be known as a 'Covid emergency ventilator', has been swiftly approved by the Welsh Government. Up to 100 of the devices will be manufactured every day, with the continued support of the Welsh Government and Industry Wales.

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price commented: “I cannot praise too highly Dr Rhys Thomas for his skill, his dedicated staff at Glangwili hospital who tested the device, as well as CR Clarke & Co for responding so swiftly. It’s fantastic that we have such brilliant expertise in Carmarthenshire to create and deliver this new device in volume at such short notice.”

The coronavirus pandemic is already severely testing the capacity of the NHS, which is engaged in a desperate drive to ensure that it has sufficient staffing and equipment to support the flood of Covid-19 patients expected in the coming weeks. A government-organised consortium of industrial giants, including Airbus, Dyson, and GKN, is working closely to manufacture tens of thousand of ventilators within weeks in order to meet the surge in demand; in the recent past, most ventilator manufacturing has taken place outside the UK.

In other countries, automakers including Ford, General Motors and Ferrari, along with other manufacturers which have seen non-essential production halted amid coronavirus containment efforts, have offered their unused factory space for the manufacturing of ventilators and other essential medical supplies. Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said that he will have at least 1,200 ventilators ready for distribution this week.

Meanwhile, many other companies have changed their production priorities to focus on providing as many hand sanitisers, medical masks, gloves and other essential consumables as possible. Facebook, Tesla and Apple are among the companies to have donated their stockpiles of millions of N95 masks to healthcare providers.

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