Galway team finds way to treat two Covid-19 patients with one ventilator

10 Apr 2020

Image: © egyjanek/

A team of medtech specialists in Galway has developed a new ventilator system that allows for two Covid-19 patients to be treated using one device.

With ventilators in short supply across the world as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, hospitals and healthcare facilities are searching for ways to meet demand.

Now, clinicians and members of the medtech sector, as part of the Inspire team at NUI Galway, have revealed a new ventilator system that allows for two Covid-19 patients to be treated using just one ventilator. When both patients are connected, the new system maintains the ability to individualise the breath size and pressure levels required by each.

The amount delivered to each patient is verified through a tablet device connected to the ventilator which, the Inspire team said, can give more confidence to the clinicians through individual patient monitoring.

An explainer for healthcare staff on how to deploy the new system has been made available for global use and has been designed so that it can be replicated using medically approved ventilator equipment found in most hospitals today.

The Inspire team is comprised of alumni of the BioInnovate medical device training programme at NUI Galway, including co-leads Jack Connolly and Atif Shahzad, as well as Tim Jones, co-founder of Symphysis Medical.

 ‘Very much a last resort’

Speaking of its potential use, Prof John Laffey of NUI Galway’s School of Medicine admitted that the idea of using two patients on one ventilator “is very much a last resort”.

“Unfortunately, we have heard some reports of intensive care colleagues in other countries in the tragic situation of having to choose which one of two Covid-19 patients to offer ventilator support to,” he said.

“This innovation will change that decision from one of having to decide which patient to provide this life-supporting technology to, allowing one to provide ventilatory support to both patients, buying time to allow one [to] source additional ventilators.”

Jones added: “The team has come together mindful of the need for speed in developing and sharing solutions that can treat the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are meanwhile moving to complete sensor and interface prototypes and rigorously testing the full system, with all findings to be shared widely as soon as they’re available.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic