A team of researchers, scientists, industry, and an astrophysicist worked to develop low-cost, easy-to-manufacture ventilators domestically in Canada during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the efforts included a Montreal-based competition that brought in global competitors and involved scientists and engineers around Nobel Prize co-winner Art McDonald. McDonald’s Italian colleague Cristiano Galbiati had invented technology to detect dark matter, which they adapted for building a low-cost ventilator. They used a different type of gas-oxygen, less mechanical parts, and valves, but it could be used in Intensive Care Units. Public procurement Canada confirms that nearly 27,000 ventilators stockpiled by the government cost over $807 million in total, with over $80 million alone for the Mechanical Ventilator Milano designed by McDonald’s group. The government donated some ventilators to Asian countries among its efforts to divest surplus supplies. The vast majority of ventilators were not requested by provinces and territories because they were not needed, but the supply may be valuable for future pandemics, suggested McDonald. Some experts believe that instead of focusing solely on procurement, more emphasis should have been placed on addressing the weakness in staffing and space in the healthcare system.
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