AN emergency ventilator designed and made in the Hunter to assist patients with COVID-19 is set to be manufactured on a larger scale for use in the NSW health system.
The Ventasys ventilator was made by a team led by Cameron Park-headquartered, national engineering firm Ampcontrol in response to the NSW government's "call-to-arms" in March to develop a low-cost, life-saving back-up ventilator solution during the pandemic.
Project Anemoi, a Greek reference to the four wind gods, was driven in the Hunter by a team that included 20 Ampcontrol engineers, biomedical and clinical specialists from Hunter New England Local Health District at the John Hunter Hospital, the University of Newcastle's Faculty of Engineering and Newcastle engineering firms, Safearth and NewieVentures, among other NSW Health specialists.
The Ventasys unit was unveiled on Wednesday by the NSW government and Ampcontrol and its team praised by Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who acknowledged they were "nearly there" for manufacturing to begin.
Ampcontrol CEO Rod Henderson said the project team had now completed stage one of the first order for 10 units for State health authorities and that model would progress to manufacturing phase, with components ordered for up to 100 units.
"Since the first prototype, there has been a lot of hardware and software refining to get the scope narrowed down for it to be a saleable and manufacturable product," he said.
With prototyping, pre-production and clinical user group assessment tested, the project team expects "within days" the required approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration before 100 units can be built at Cameron Park.
Mr Henderson said once the TGA approval was received, further software engineering would take place to meet the exact specifications required by NSW health clinicians for use in Intensive Care Units.
"The 100 units we will do will be built under the COVID-19 Emergency Act for use on COVID patients .. and the next system we build, Ventasys Pro, will be designed for use in the entire NSW public health system as a mainstream product," he said.
The ventilators will be used nationally for surge capacity if the virus spikes again and there are plans to export the product overseas. Mr Henderson said the company was already in discussions with government regarding export opportunities for the Hunter-made ventilator.
"We are trying to get ourselves in front of government to show just what we can do in the region," he said.
"[This project] showcases the strong talent that we have in the Hunter manufacturing, engineering and trades, the university and industry - it's put the spotlight on us not just as mining and mining service region but as an advanced manufacturing centre."
"To turn a concept into a first-class lifesaving piece of medical equipment within such a critical timeframe is testament to the highly advanced capability and skilled expertise in our region."
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