As the world struggles to tackle the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic that has caught some of the most efficient public health systems off guard, four youngsters from Bangladesh are offering some much needed hope. Dr Kazi Shakkher, MBBS, FCPS (Trainees), Baized Shuvo, CEO, Axion Engineering Solutions, Asif Fahad Kingshuk, CSE student from BRAC University, and Tajbiul Hasan Kabbo, EEE student from AUST, have invented Spondon, a low-cost emergency medical ventilator that may well be able to save Bangladesh from the crisis. Talking to Dhaka Tribune’s Baizid Haque Joarder, the team explains the story behind Spondon
What sets Spondon apart?
Spondon is fundamentally a cost effective emergency medical ventilator. Medical ventilators, known as life support machines in our country, are machines that provide mechanical ventilation by passing oxygen into a patient's lungs when the patient is physically unable to breathe and maintain the oxygen level in his or her blood. Each machine costs at least Tk5 to 15lakhs, making it nearly impossible for insolvent people in our country to afford it.
Most of our public hospitals do not have enough ventilators in their ICUs. Spondon was invented as a solution to this problem. It performs the functions of a regular medical ventilator or life support machine at a significantly lower cost, so that it can save the lives of the impoverished in this global crisis.
Can one say that Spondon is a proper substitute for high end ventilators?
Since we were focused on creating something that serves the purpose during emergencies and is cost efficient, Spondon is not a complete alternative to a regular high end ventilator. However, it can serve most patients with full potential. Furthermore, there is no standard from the government for the functions of a ventilator in our country. Therefore, we followed guidelines and specifications from the government of the UK. We are upgrading and adding newer features every day.
What inspired you to come up with something like this?
Our foremost motivation in developing Spondon was to make mechanical ventilation as affordable and available as possible for people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. One of our teammates, Shakkhor, being a doctor, noticed the scarcity and high cost of ventilators in our public hospitals. Using a medical ventilator for a single day in the ICU of a private hospital costs a lot of money. Even middle class people cannot bear this cost, let alone those who are insolvent. When the pandemic struck, even first world countries started facing a scarcity of ICUs to treat Covid-19 patients. So, Shakkhor and Baized teamed up with Kingshuk and Kabbo to pursue their idea of making an affordable emergency ventilator at Axion Engineering Solutions.
How effective do you think Spondon is? Can it be locally manufactured?
Even though Spondon is not a full fledged high end medical ventilator, it can effectively treat those who need ventilation. If Covid-19 spreads in an alarming manner in our country, the lack of medical ventilators will be a major setback to the treatment of infected patients. Assuming that all ventilators are occupied, Spondon can serve the function of a ventilator for days until a patient can be treated with a regular ventilator. Additionally, it is portable and can provide 30-40 minutes of power backup when the main power is not available.
Medical and technical specifications of Spondon:
Mode: V CMV
Rate: 15~30 /min
I:E : 1:1, 1:2,1:3
VT: 200~500ml to 50 ml increment
Auto trigger: pressure control 3~5 cmH2O
Disconnect alarm: yes
Inspiratory peak pressure monitor: yes
High-pressure alarm: yes
PEEP: mechanical PEEP valve
Spondon is designed with high robustness and it is independent of major component imports from outside the country. It can be locally manufactured, which is a great advantage as the pandemic has virtually cut off all international trade and freight. Economically, it can conserve a lot of foreign expenditure.
In addition, on account of its cost effectiveness, Spondon can also be installed in all ambulances. We don't have enough fully equipped ambulances in our country. When all ambulances have the machine installed in them, patients who need to be brought from, say Khagrachhori to Dhaka, will have a higher chance of survival during the day long journey. This machine can also be disposed of if needed, because of how reasonable the cost is.
Are you getting any sort of certification from the relevant authorities?
We are trying and are looking forward to getting certification as soon as possible. We seek the support of our honourable prime minister, the Health Ministry, and associated government organizations, to get certification immediately, so that our invention can be used to help and save the lives of our people as soon as possible.
How soon do you think you guys can go into mass production?
All the components of Spondon are locally sourced from our country. Even though Spondon is our first fully functional prototype, it still needs to go through several trials and improvements. So we are aspiring to get permission for further procedures.
After the test runs, if we get approval and certification from our government to use the device on infected patients, we can start thinking about mass production. We will also need financial support, industrial resources, factory facilities, equipment, and many other essential things for mass production. We need help and support from investors and stakeholders for this. However, we are trying to provide the services of Spondon to the people as soon as possible.
Dr Asif ur Rahman, registrar (critical care), Ever Care Hospital