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Jakarta Post

PTDI, Indofarma, universities working on ventilator prototypes

  • Riska Rahman and Norman Harsono

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, April 8, 2020   /   04:34 pm
PTDI, Indofarma, universities working on ventilator prototypes Medical workers check the ventilator at the intensive care unit (ICU) of Pertamina Jaya Hospital in Central Jakarta on Monday. (Antara/M. Risyal Hidayat)

State-owned aircraft manufacturer PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI), pharmaceutical firm Indofarma and local universities are developing ventilator prototypes to help meet skyrocketing demand for the crucial medical equipment to treat coronavirus patients.

Carmakers are also readying their factories to switch production lines to the manufacture of ventilators.

PTDI president director Elfien Goentoro told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday that the aerospace company planned to mass-produce one of five ventilator prototypes currently being tested by the Health Ministry. The prototypes were produced in collaboration with universities and other institutions. 

“We have been asked by the Defense Ministry and the State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) Ministry to join the COVID-19 ventilator team to produce prototypes for commercial use,” he said by text message. “Once the prototypes pass the Health Ministry’s tests, we are ready to modify our production lines to produce the ventilators.”

Ventilators are in short supply globally as countries around the world scramble to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. The group of 20 largest economies (G20) has pledged to create a supportive global supply chain environment to address a global deficit of medical gear, notably for personal protective equipment (PPE), test kits and ventilators.

Read also: Indonesian manufacturers step up as G20 nations coordinate global medical supply

Indonesia currently has 8,936 ventilators dispersed in 1,827 hospitals across the country, according to Health Ministry data from March 23. Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 cases in the country has reached 2,738, with 221 fatalities, the highest death toll in Southeast Asia. Scientists have estimated that the number of cases could reach 71,000 by the end of April.

Several members of the Indonesian Medical Equipment Manufacturers Association (Aspaki) are also working on a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine as well as on noninvasive and invasive ventilator prototypes to help meet demand, said executive manager Ahyahudin Sodri.

Universities have begun to develop their own ventilator prototypes. The Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), Salman Mosque Foundation and Padjadjaran University’s School of Medicine (FK Unpad) are currently developing a noninvasive ventilator prototype called Vent-I.

“We’ve completed the prototype, and it is currently being tested by the Health Ministry’s Health Facility Test Agency [BPFK]. Hopefully, our prototype can be used to treat patients with mild to medium symptoms before their condition deteriorates,” said Hari Tjahjono, external relations head of the Salman-ITB-FK Unpad ventilator team.

State-owned pharmaceutical firm PT Indofarma is developing its own version of an invasive ventilator for critically ill patients.

“Hopefully we can complete the prototypes by the third or fourth week of this month,” president director Arief Pramuhanto told the Post on Monday.

Read also: Experts warn it will take time for local carmakers to producer ventilators

Local automotive manufacturers have been in talks with the Industry Ministry to develop ventilators. However, experts are saying it will take time to turn the idea into reality, since the carmakers will need product blueprints, raw materials and production line designs in partnership with the government and medical equipment manufacturers.

Indonesian textile manufacturers have swiftly adjusted production lines to make PPE items such as masks and hazmat suits with a total capacity of 18.3 million pieces per month starting in May. However, local companies are struggling to manufacture medical-grade gear, test kits and ventilators.

No local manufacturer is able to produce ventilators just yet, according to Aspaki.

“Ventilators are considered to be high-risk medical equipment. Manufacturers have to comply with international safety standards in designing and producing the product. They also need to receive approval from either the Indonesian Health Ministry, European Conformity (CE) certification or a certificate from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before selling it commercially,” Ahyahudin said. Most of the components for ventilators are also imported from other countries, he added.

Arief of Indofarma echoed those concerns, saying that local manufacturers were particularly hard-pressed to develop the invasive type used for critical patients, as they need special specifications to build one.

Other than developing its own invasive ventilator prototype, Indofarma also produces equipment like hospital beds, IV posts and negative-pressured isolation stretchers.

Read also: COVID-19: Textile factories face hurdles as they switch to producing medical gear

Arief said that the firm was also working to build a new production facility to produce surgical masks that was expected to start production by the end of April.

“We expect the facility can produce 10 million to 12 million surgical masks a month,” he said.

The company says it is continuing to innovate by developing a new product to be used for COVID-19 treatment facilities. “We just developed a new product called emergency isolation room that can be used by local administrations that need emergency treatment facilities outside of hospitals, such as in stadiums or public halls,” Arief added.

A sharp increase in demand for masks has also prompted other manufacturers from various industries to produce masks and other PPE.

Textile companies like publicly listed PT Pan Brothers and PT Sri Rejeki Isman (Sritex) have switched some of their production lines to making masks and coveralls. Pan Brothers agreed to produce 20 million washable masks and 100,000 jumpsuits by April, as ordered by the government and retailers.

Most recently, conglomerate Sinar Mas Group announced that it plans to build a new production facility under its paper producer subsidiary, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), that could produce 1.8 million surgical masks per month.