Coronavirus: Nova Scotia-developed ventilator built in under three weeks, awaits approval

A new ventilator, made in Nova Scotia, could be ready to help patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The manufacturing group led by a group of engineers, manufacturers, and doctors completed a ventilator prototype this past weekend and pending product testing and federal approval, the life-saving device could fill a need during the global health crisis.

“We’ll be able to turn over hundreds of highly functional, world-class ventilator systems,” said Joe Meschefski, project lead with the Nova Scotia Ventilator Project.

It was just three weeks ago when the group formed and decided to build a ventilator in part because they heard the cry from health care providers.

Emergency physician Chris Milburn is part of the ventilator project and offering his medical expertise.

Milburn is also the chief of emergency medicine for Nova Scotia Health Authority’s Eastern Zone and he understands the need for proper medical equipment and devices, saying it’s a major concern in hospitals right now during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“The last situation anybody wants to be in as a doctor is rationing ventilator resources,” he said. “But some of the worst-case, most pessimistic scenarios have us running over the number of ventilators that we have available.”

Protocase, a manufacturing company in Sydney, N.S., is the lead manufacturer on the project, but the organization has many partners spanning various sectors, from engineering and technology companies to medical experts.

Meschefski said it’s a real community-based project designed to help those in the communities where they live.

But one of the challenges from the fabrication side of the job was the lack of parts available, because of a major lack of available raw and material goods in the global supply chain.

“Everybody in the world is sold out of everything,” said Meschefski. “Everything involving medical devices, from the valves that you need to the tubes that you need. Even things like pressure sensors in motors have been ordered by the tens of thousands by places already like Italy and Spain.”

This added an entirely different layer of complexity to the ventilator’s development and forced the group to build and source all their parts from here at home in Nova Scotia.

Now, however, they know their supply is secure.

As the ventilators are now ready for testing, Dr. Milburn is hopeful the province won’t need the devices, but in the case they do, they are hopeful a fast-tracking approval process can be made.

“In a pandemic situation there is a real openness by governments to allow projects like this to go through,” said Milburn.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority says they are impressed with the creativity and ingenuity coming from the province’s private sector during the pandemic.

They acknowledged they have met with the Protocase group last week and aren’t ruling out a partnership, either, but in the meantime offered assistance with applications to the regulatory authority

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