Keeping it local: Sask.-made ventilators available for ICUs

The ventilators were developed through a partnership between the SHA, the University of Saskatchewan and RMD Engineering.

They were developed through a partnership between the SHA, the U of S and RMD Engineering

The EUV-SK1 ventilator developed by the partnership is meant to meet the needs in the health sector in Saskatchewan and the rest of Canada. (Radio-Canada)

Some much-needed medical equipment is being produced in Saskatchewan.

A group in the province has developed a new type of ventilator and the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) has already purchased 100 of them for intensive care units.

The EUV-SK1 ventilators was developed by a collaboration between the University of Saskatchewan, the SHA and RMD Engineering Inc.

RMD president Jim Boire said his daughter was working at the Royal University Hospital as an ICU nurse when the pandemic hit. He said he was inspired to help because of her. 

"In the news, it kept saying that there was this enormous need for ventilators. So once you feel like you can do something … It gives you that feeling of obligation that you should do something," Boire said. 

Through the partnership, the group was able to successfully create a prototype of an emergency use ventilator that has now received Health Canada certification. The dean of the U of S college of engineering, a respiratory therapist, a lawyer, a veterinarian and many others helped in the creation.

Julia Montgomery is an associate professor at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. She was supposed to be on sabbatical leave working on her own project, but it was shut down due to the pandemic.

"For me, I felt the need to do something to contribute. And so when I was presented with the opportunity to participate in this project, I kind of just jumped," Montgomery said.

Montgomery helped with her broader skill set as a clinical researcher to create the accompanying documents.

"Basically making sure that the device is user-friendly and easy to use by those professionals that actually do use them," Montgomery said. "Making something user friendly directly links to patient safety and risk mitigation."

Patricia Farnese, an associate professor at the U of S college of law, helped with legal matters and regulations.

"It was really great to have something tangible to do on a day-to-day basis that felt like I was doing a small part to support what really was phenomenal work by and by a larger group of people," Farnese said.

Professors in multiple departments from the University of Saskatchewan collaborated to help create the EUV-SK1 ventilator. (CBC)

Farnese said she hopes the ventilators are sent to places that need them in the future and that the project shows remarkable things can happen with connections.

Boire said it truly was a large collaborative effort.

"This is the way Saskatchewan people are: they're very talented, very humble. And I think it's really, really a sense of accomplishment when you look at your team and what they can do and you get to be very proud of them."

Health Minister Paul Merriman said in a release that the initiative exemplifies the spirit of collaboration in the province. 

"Our government fully supports this work, and we are pleased that residents in Saskatchewan and across the country will have access to this equipment, if they need it," Merriman said in a release. 

Minister of Health Paul Merriman said in a statement that the government supports the work and is pleased people will have access to the equipment if needed. (Michael Bell/The Canadian Press)

The company made their ventilators different from other ones on the market to keep costs down. The ventilators also only have four moving parts, in case parts supply became an issue. 

There are approximately 650 ventilators available for use in Saskatchewan's health care system, ranging from high-end critical-care ventilators to basic sub-acute ventilators. The 100 from RMD increases that number to 750.

"The SHA is grateful for the dedication and work that RMD Engineering has invested in creating a Saskatchewan-made solution to support the needs of patients for ventilator support as the COVID-19 pandemic continues," Lori Garchinski, SHA executive director for provincial programs in tertiary care, said in a statement.

"Enhancing our ventilator capacity allows for frontline teams to balance the needs of their patients with the appropriate available equipment."

With files from The Afternoon Edition and The Morning Edition