March 17, 2020 / 6:43 PM / 17 days ago

Ireland to add 100 ventilators a week as coronavirus cases hit 292

DUBLIN, March 17 (Reuters) - Ireland’s health service is finalising contracts to add 100 ventilators per week to meet the demand from coronavirus cases that the country’s prime minister has forecast could reach 15,000 by the end of the month.

Many countries are trying to buy ventilators, used to keep people with coronavirus alive if they struggle to breathe, with neighbouring Britain asking non-medical manufacturers to help produce them.

Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE) had an existing stock of 500 ventilators, had secured another 300 with immediate effect while private healthcare operators had a further 500 machines, HSE chief executive Paul Reid said on Tuesday.

“We are going to continue to purchase 100 per week in the coming weeks to the extent that we need and we’re just finalising contracts with two key vendors in terms of the supply of those literally as we speak,” Reid told a news conference.

Ireland is the second largest exporter of medical technology products in Europe, according to the government.

The world’s largest standalone medical device maker, Medtronic, which generates the majority of its profits in the U.S. but is based in low-tax Ireland, has a major plant in the western Irish city of Galway that produces ventilators.

Ireland’s total number of confirmed cases rose to 292 on Tuesday from 223 a day earlier, the health department said in a statement, in line with the forecast 30% daily growth rate behind Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s end of month estimate.

The health service had also procured as much personal protective equipment as was needed, Chief Clinical Officer Colm Henry said, amid reports to the HSE from some health workers of a delay in getting equipment such as goggles and masks.

HSE officials also said a consignment of 30,000 new test kits due to arrive on Thursday would help it clear a backlog of demand but that it would still take several days before prospective patients could be tested for now.

A ramping up of activity throughout this week at new test sites - which include the service tunnels in Dublin’s 80,000 seat Croke Park Gaelic sports stadium - should see a reduction in the wait time for testing, the officials said. (Reporting by Padraic Halpin; editing by Nick Macfie)

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