Currently, 19,398 ventilators are available, and orders for 60,884 have been placed. About 1,000 of them will be imported. (Photo by Keshav Singh / Hindustan Times)
Currently, 19,398 ventilators are available, and orders for 60,884 have been placed. About 1,000 of them will be imported. (Photo by Keshav Singh / Hindustan Times)

Medical supplies’ production scaled up, domestic manufacturers in focus

The Centre has projected a demand of about 75,000 ventilators till June to manage critically ill Covid-19 cases in the country, said PD Vaghela, secretary, department of pharmaceuticals.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Rhythma Kaul
UPDATED ON MAY 02, 2020 12:02 AM IST

The central government has scaled up production of medical equipment in response to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak and ordered 60,884 ventilators, of which 59,884 will be manufactured in India, an official said on Friday as he detailed the country’s preparedness to tackle the infectious disease.

The Centre has projected a demand of about 75,000 ventilators till June to manage critically ill Covid-19 cases in the country, said PD Vaghela, secretary, department of pharmaceuticals. He is the chairman of one of the empowered groups formed to control the outbreak in the country.

Presenting the government’s projections and procurement plans at the 4pm news briefing, Vaghela said the Centre has ordered 22.2 million personal protection equipment (PPE) kits, of which about 14.2 million will be procured from domestic manufacturers and the rest imported.

Currently, 19,398 ventilators are available, and orders for 60,884 have been placed. About 1,000 of them will be imported.

“The HLL Lifecare Limited, a PSU under the ministry of health and family welfare, is acting as the central procurement agency. Most of the orders are being placed domestically and the government has worked hard to encourage domestic manufacturers to start producing, including the raw material as even raw material is in short supply globally. About 15,000 ventilators are already manufactured and testing is currently being done,” Vaghela said.

Considering the increased global demand and shortage of essential medical supplies, the government is promoting domestic manufacturing and is resorting to imports only if necessary.

The total projected demand of PPE kits till June has been estimated to be 20.1 million. Against the same, orders for 22.2 million kits have already been placed.

From importing about 50,000 PPE kits annually to putting in place a system to domestically manufacture about 200,000 kits in a day, India has ramped up its capacity to deliver on the need for medical equipment in the past two months, officials said.

“Earlier, we didn’t manufacture PPE kits or N-95 masks in India. All these supplies were imported, and there was not much demand for it also. In just about a month, we have identified from two manufacturers to the current 111 manufacturers domestically. In just about 15 days, we established nine labs that could do the quality testing of kits,” said Vaghela.

The total projected demand for N-95 masks till June has been estimated to be 27.2 million. Against the same, orders for 24.9 million have already been placed. Of these, 14.9 million orders have been placed with domestic manufacturers and about 10 million N-95 masks are being imported.

There are four major domestic manufacturers in the country and more are in line, which have been identified and facilitated. The daily domestic production was about 230,000 on April 30, according to the official.

The production of oxygen is also being ramped up. “In India, we don’t need too many ventilators; what is required is adequate supply of oxygen as most of the severely ill patients need oxygen support,” he added.

The total manufacturing capacity of oxygen is 6,400 metric tonne, of which around 1,000 mt is used for medical oxygen. There are five big and 600 small manufacturers of oxygen, and about 409 hospitals have their own oxygen generation units.

About 438,000 medical oxygen cylinders are available for supply, and orders for 103,000 new medical oxygen cylinders have been placed. 500,000 industrial oxygen cylinders have also been identified for conversion, if required. Orders for the conversion of 60,000 cylinders have already been issued.

“It doesn’t take much in converting industrial oxygen to medical oxygen; if required we also have that option open,” said Vaghela.

The government is also keeping a close watch on the drugs supply to tackle shortages, if any. Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) production has increased from 122.3 million to 300 million tablets per month. The country has released about 160 million tablets of HCQ to the Centre as well as state hospitals, and pharmacies against the requirement of about 25 million.

“We are managing well, and like we exported HCQ, we should be able to export other supplies also in the future after obviously meeting our own demands,” said Vaghela.

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