How the Domestic Medical Equipment Industry “Adapted, Evolved and Expanded” to meet COVID19 challenge in 2020
2020 witnessed tremendous achievements in the medical supplies sector in the country. At the beginning of the pandemic, India was almost totally dependent on imported Ventilators, PPE Kits and N-95 Masks. There were, in fact, no standard specifications for these products which are essential in the fight against the pandemic. The Central Government recognised the challenges posed by the pandemic in the very initial stages and successfully ensured more than adequate availability and supplies of essential medical items across the country.
The average cost of ventilators in India in February-March, 2020 was approximately Rs. 15 lakh and nearly all were imported. Due to the Indian industry taking up manufacturing of ventilators, the average cost now ranges between Rs. 2 to Rs.10 lakhs. In the last 9 months, the Ministry has ensured delivery of 36,433 ventilators to Government hospitals in States/UTs. This is important because from independence of the country till pre-COVID times, all the public health facilities in the country had only about 16,000 ventilators but in less than 12 months 36,433 ‘Make in India’ ventilators have been supplied to all the public health facilities. All export restrictions on ventilators have now been removed and “Make in India’’ ventilators are being exported.
In the case of PPE kits, from a miniscule domestic production capacity in March, India has now become the world’s second largest manufacturer with a production capacity of more than 10 lakh PPE coveralls per day which are also exported to several countries. There are already nearly 1,700 indigenous manufacturers and suppliers registered on the Government e-Marketplace (GeM) Portal with dozens already certified by BIS. Nearly 170 lakh PPE kits have been distributed free of cost to the States, Union Territories (UTs) and Central Institutions. The buffer stock of PPE kits available with the Central and State Governments has grown from about 2 lakh in March to more than 89 lakh at present. The average price has come down substantially from nearly Rs.600 to about Rs.200 per kit in 9 months.
Similarly, till March 2020 there were only 3 suppliers of N-95 masks with a modest production capacity of less than 1 lakh masks per day. Presently, more than 3000 manufacturers and suppliers of N-95 masks are already registered on the GeM Portal including 1509 BIS certified ones and the domestic production capacity has risen to more than 8 lakh N-95 masks per day. These are also being exported from India in large quantities. More than 4 crore N-95 masks have so far been distributed free of cost to various States, UTs and Central Institutions. The buffer stock of N-95 masks available with the Central and State Governments has risen sharply from about 9 lakh in March to about 146 lakh at present and the average prices have dropped from about Rs.40 to Rs.12 per mask during the same period.
The Government has already placed orders for procurement of nearly 83 crore syringes. Additionally, bids have also been invited for nearly 35 crore syringes. These will be used for Covid vaccination and also for the Universal Immunization Programme.