SA defence company designs ventilator to aid Covid-19 patients

Photo only for illustration purposes.

Defence companies are known for making lethal weapons that end lives instead of producing equipment that save lives.

But a South African defence firm, Milkor, has added healthcare equipment to its production lines and that enabled them to produced a life-saving Milkor medical ventilator at their medical engineering subsidiary, Milkor Medical.

When it is introduced into the country’s healthcare system, the ventilator will help Coronavirus sufferers. It used the E-Vent technology concept developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Milkor medical ventilator uses an actuator to compress an Ambu-Bag. The design uses switch limiters, pressure sensors, overpressure valves and peep valves to ensure the well-being of the patient.

The ventilator is easily transportable due to its robust design, which makes it versatile for ambulances, field hospitals and intensive cares units.

Milkor head of product development Julian Coetzee said as an adaptation to contribute to the fight against Covid-19, they used the expertise of its defence engineers and designers to develop both the Milkor medical ventilator and the continuous positive airway pressure device, also known as CPAP, machine.

The latter device controls the air pressure, as well as the oxygen percentage flowing to an intubated patient. The CPAP machine, originally designed by Mercedes F1, could be used in conjunction with Milkor’s noninvasive ventilation helmet system which lessened the side effects and complications related to endotracheal intubation.

The firm believed the low cost and easy-to-use ventilator would be in dire need soon.

“The advantage and benefits of these devices are that the perfect amount of oxygen is given to the patient, which leads to improved distribution of limited oxygen supplies at hospitals,” Coetzee said.

He said Milkor Medical was gearing for a minimum output of 2,000 ventilators a month with a predicted maximum output of 4,000 units monthly.

Certification is the only thing standing in the way of introducing the ventilator into the country’s healthcare system.

Discussions aimed at achieving the go-ahead were under way with health authorities.

“We are in a very advanced phase of certification, not just with the SA Health Products Regulatory

Authority but also with various international certification bodies, including the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Union. Our product development team is working closely with some of SA’s top medical device consultants and experts in the medical field to guide us through the entire process,” Coetzee said.

Eric Naki

The Citizen