As soon as we received news that our Harare Institute Of Technology was ambitiously working towards supplying the much needed ventilators to our hospitals, we celebrated the technological news but never amused about politicians running away with an idea in incubation to the press.
Research institutions have a critical mandate and must be getting a larger chunk of the budget under Research and Development (R&D) and Innovation first to be in a position to competitively bring out national solutions that can be commercialised , and this does not need propaganda but resources.
Customizing or developing your own ventilator is no easy project, ventilators have a key task to feed oxygen to one’s lungs at the moment they can no longer breathe on their own .
While the same move was on trial in the US with renowned companies heavily funded to create cheaper or mush affordable ventilators than the current commercial one, the project is well known for dying a premature death, hence we were skeptical but not all hope lost. .
The U.S. tried to build a new fleet of cheap ventilators, costing around USD $3 000 against the market price of usd$10 000, the mission failed. The US Government had funded millions to the project code named Project Aura but it all folded.
HIT was making ventilators to cover for the gap created by the ravaging Covid 19 pandemic, the idea is perfect and amazing. they are not reinventing the wheel but working with what’s already available, but with an option to sustain more than one person at a time, but at a lesser cost.
HIT Vice Chancellor Eng Kanhukamwe said they had successfully tested three versions of ventilators at the University of Zimbabwe and Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals.
“I want to say to date we have developed three versions of ventilators and ventilators come in different shapes and sizes and I am happy to say that with the guidance of international standards organisations framework on production of ventilators, all the three versions meet those standards.
“I also want to assure the committee that our ministry will be leaving no stone unturned for the mass production of those. The issue that is delaying mass production is foreign currency. We need foreign currency for specific components before we can begin production and supply our hospitals,” he said.
These are very strrong ambitious projects which once again only demand state support in funding to make sure we have genuine world class products that can match international standards without putting the patients at risks.
This can not be allowed to become another false start or wishful thinking, research institutions have big visions but the relevant state arms must come in heavy to make sure these projects are sustained and more importantly must have done enough research to make sure its practical to have them running in the first place before commiting the scarce dollar power.