Ventilator shortage may ‘collapse’ Japan healthcare

By Wang Bozun and Wang Sheng Source:Global Times Published: 2020/4/7 19:48:40

Employees produce ventilators at Mindray Bio-Medical Electronics Co, a medical device manufacturer based in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province, March 31, 2020. (Xinhua/Liang Xu)

Japan is facing a severe ventilator shortage as the number of critical cases involving the novel coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19) rises, which will cause a "health care collapse" in the country, the Kyodo news agency reported.

A Chinese industry insider said that Japan's strict certification system and limited global ventilator production capacity are the main barriers for the country to import more ventilators.

According to the Kyodo report, there are 22,254 ventilators in Japan, but only 13,437 are available for COVID-19 patients. Nine prefectures including Osaka and Fukuoka are facing severe ventilator shortages.

Since the COVID-19 virus started to spread globally and more people fell seriously ill in many nations, there has been a worldwide shortage of ventilators, which are crucial in the treatment of patients in critical condition from the disease.

China - dubbed the world's factory - has become the major source of the device for most countries, especially as the pandemic in the country has been gradually eased.   

A sales manager surnamed Xue at BMC Medical Co, a Beijing-based medical equipment manufacturer that exports ventilators mainly to Europe and South America, told the Global Times on Tuesday that since the pandemic spread worldwide, the number of overseas orders has surged.

"Since the outbreak of COVID-19, we increased production capacity to 30,000 ventilators per month by having employees work overtime," Xue said, adding that "even so, the production schedule is still very tight, and even if there are new orders from Japan, they would have to wait until May."

An employee at Mindray, another medical equipment maker, told the Global Times that its ventilators flow into the domestic market and Europe. For example, the company's ventilators can only be shipped to countries that it has signed contracts with. The company can't accept new orders until June because of the global shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

After talking with nearly 10 ventilator suppliers in China, the Global Times learned that despite a ventilator shortage in Japan, only few medical equipment makers have orders from Japan.

Lü Mengtao, a veteran in the medical equipment industry, told the Global Times that unlike some general certificates such as EU's CE marking, a certification that indicates conformity with health, safety, and environmental protection standards for products sold within the European Economic Area, Japan has its own certification and supervision system that is more complex and stricter.

"The medical equipment market in Japan is smaller than those in the EU and the US. Additionally, because of its stricter requirements, normally many medical equipment makers would rather choose the US or the EU as export destinations instead of Japan," Lü noted.

However, considering the special situation caused by the pandemic, if Japan would make direct purchases in China, and the two governments could coordinate suppliers' priorities, it would be easier for the country to get Chinese-made ventilators, Lü added.


blog comments powered by Disqus