The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated that health systems in most Latin America and the Caribbean are not well prepared for such a crisis. One of the most important bottlenecks to date are the lack of respiratory equipment, intensive care units, sufficient and sure oxygen supply and enough qualified medical personnel for handling this equipment. The demand for mechanical ventilators increased dramatically but could not be satisfied by the existing producers. Some Latin American countries made a lot of efforts to overcome this situation and to promote the development of low cost ventilators and testing facilities.
SIM, short for Sistema Interamericano de Metrología and PTB have agreed to execute a project that should help to overcome the bottleneck of mechanical ventilators. This is not only important in times of the Covid-19 pandemic but also in a long-term perspective for all diseases that require artificial ventilation. It is therefore crucial to ensure the quality of the equipment being used, making sure that all the functioning parameters – with focus in flow and volume – fulfil the established requirements.
The project was developed by the SIM Metrology Working Group 10 Flow and Volume supported by the SIM Secretariat and PTB. It began in November 2020 and will end in October 2021. The activities represent an interesting mixture of developing measurement instruments, consolidating measurement methods, technological transfer, experience exchange and awareness activities:
- Activity Nº1: Design and development of a low cost flowmeter for mechanical ventilators
- Activity Nº2: Design and build a lung simulator as a basic infrastructure for the testing of mechanical ventilators
- Activity Nº3: Improve and strengthen the micro-volume calibration processes in LNM-INEN, the national metrology institute in Ecuador
- Activity Nº4: Virtual workshop: technical exchange and knowledge transfer in micro volume measurements, and low pressure gas flow measurements
- Activity N°5: Low pressure gas flow and low volume comparisons between national metrology institutes that have the technical preconditions
- Activity N°6: On-site training and awareness event: “Development of a basic metrology infrastructure for medical testing equipment (ventilators as priority) in the Americas“
On 2 December 2020 the activities started with a Virtual SIM Workshop for Experience Exchange and Knowledge Transfer. The presentations prepared by LCM, Costa Rica, Universidad Francisco Gavidia/CIM, El Salvador, LATU, Uruguay and INTI, Argentina had an excellent quality and were full of worthful information. They demonstrated the complexity of the challenges, the different conditions and approaches and the current results of the efforts. The up to 92 participants showed high interest in the subject. They came not only from SIM member States but also from EAMET, the East African Subregional Organisation of AFRIMETS. The participants from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi showed a great interest to establish contacts with SIM for exchanging experiences and mutual learning. The organisers of the event appreciated this first exchange between the two regions with the hope that this was not the last one.
The next workshop will take place on 24 February 2021 with contributions by CENAMEP-AIP, Panama, ISP-RNM, INN, Chile and INACAL, Peru. Additionally, INMETRO, Brazil, CENAM, Mexico and INEN, Ecuador will present the project activities for implementing a basic metrology infrastructure to support medical testing equipment with a focus on ventilators in the region.
Image © Laboratorio Costarricense de Metrologia