Ventilator manufacturers from China are toiling day and night to meet the growing demand for their products, as healthcare workers from across the world search for effective solutions to prevent and cure the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Demand has been such that companies have even started roping in front line executives to help in the various stages of production and shipment.
At a ventilator manufacturing plant in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, Wang Rui, a public relations manager is busy packing newly assembled ventilators for shipment to Europe. Though she has no prior experience on the packing line, Wang is one the several volunteers the company is using to meet the growing demand from hospitals across Europe and the United States.
Ventilators help patients to breathe when they are unable to do so on their own due to critical illness. Very often, they can make the difference between life and death for a patient.
Currently, the supply of medical equipment, especially ventilators, across Europe has been worrisome. Traditional supplies account for just 10 percent of the demand, as most European countries have limited medical equipment stocks, and face constraints in improving the production capacity, said a statement from the European Commission.
Without quick imports, the member countries will face an increasingly serious shortage of basic medical equipment, the statement said.
On March 19, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, one of the US states severely affected by the epidemic, said that the state was facing a shortage of over 30,000 ventilators. To tackle the problem, the state has already sent representatives to China to purchase 15,000 ventilators.
“Overseas ventilator orders have been soaring. The orders are mainly from Europe. In early March, we received an order for nearly 10,000 pieces of medical equipment, mainly ventilators and monitors, from Italy. The goods have already been shipped and we expect the entire order to be completed by the middle of April,” said May Li, a senior executive of medical equipment manufacturer Mindray.
“The company has a relatively localized layout, such as in operations, sales, and after-sales, in the overseas markets. Only a small amount of our raw materials comes from overseas markets, which we have already sourced, and we have also found alternatives to them. In addition, with the increasing production capacity and the improvement of the situation in China, we see no problem in timely product deliveries,” Li said.
Li Kai, assistant to the chairman of Beijing Aeonmed Co Ltd, an anesthesia and respiratory medical equipment enterprise, said: “Our plants are working around the clock to increase production capacity as we have received orders from several countries,” he said.
He said the earlier demand for ventilators, which are normally used in the intensive care units (ICUs) of hospitals, was not that high. Due to the surging demand, the company has been working frenetically to increase production capacity.
According to a report issued by market research consultancy Wismar, the top five Chinese ventilator brands are Mindray, Aeonmed, Comen, Amoul and Superstar.
During the first six months of last year, China exported respiratory medical equipment to 166 countries and regions. In value terms, it was $360 million, up 8.41 percent on a yearly basis, said the report.
Li Xingqian, director-general of the Department of Foreign Trade at the Ministry of Commerce, said during a recent news conference that after the epidemic outbreak, China has not imposed any ban on medical material and equipment exports.
“Chinese medical enterprises are shouldering the responsibilities of helping the world fight the virus. Regardless of profits, the world needs us,” Li from Aeonmed said.
Zhang Xun, a ventilator industry expert, said: “Chinese enterprises have completed the transformation from ‘Made in China’ to ‘Created in China’ and become an integral part of the global respiratory product market.”
In the fight against the epidemic, Chinese medical equipment has not only met domestic demand, but also served the international community with aplomb, he said.