CORONAVIRUS VENTILATORS | RAÚL CASADO | EFE | Madrid

 

The Hersill company, a family business founded in 1973 and located in the town of Mostoles, Madrid, has multiplied its production, especially of respirators or pulmonary ventilators, while the country holds its breath in the face of the health crisis caused by the coronavirus.

When the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, visited its facilities las Friday, he posed with several of its managers and those of other companies also involved in this production.

And about the people who appear in the photo, among whom is also the Minister of Industry, Reyes Maroto, stood out the portrait -as in thousands of small and medium family businesses throughout the country- of the person who founded, almost fifty years ago the company, Benjamín Herranz Escamilla, who died a yeat ago.

The company, today run by the second generation of the same family, had in oxygen therapy and medical suction its classic product lines, but two decades ago began to develop much more complex devices, including the transport and emergency ventilator “Vitae 40”.

Its president, Benjamín Herranz Jordán, stressed in an interview with Efe that for years they have been exporting around 70 percent of what they manufacture, and that thanks to this they managed to endure the last economic crisis well and even significantly expand their workforce, “which fills us with pride”.

This is the first time that the company’s managers have made statements to the media, and as a family business they now want to focus all their efforts on production and on meeting the demand of the State and the needs of a part of the medical equipment they manufacture to help solve this crisis as soon as possible.

THE THIRD GENERATION OF THE VENTILATOR

Its president has detailed that the first “Vitae 40” was manufactured in 2013, coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the company, and has specified that its objective was to achieve the best transport and emergency ventilator on the market “and we have achieved this with the third generation”, a version that obtained the “CE mark”; in February 2019, so far few units have been sold and almost all outside Spain.

Benjamín Herranz has pointed out that respirators or lung ventilators are machines capable of replacing a patient’s breathing and has observed that “ICU ventilators UCI” are designed to replace a patient’s “very serious and complex” breathing for weeks.

The ICU’s ones “are by far the most expensive”, detailed the president of the company, and pointed out that those of transport and emergency have very variable benefits, including some very elementary, such as basic mechanical ventilation of a patient for cardiopulmonary resuscitation or for very short transfers.

“But there are also those with benefits similar to those of the ICU, like ours”, pointed out Benjamín Herranz.

“A ventilator such as Vitae 40, for example, is needed to transfer a mechanically ventilated patient from the ICU of one hospital to that of another centre”, he confirmed, adding that the Ministry of Health evaluated this ventilator “and found it suitable for ventilating patients with COVID-19, but it has limitations, because it is not an ICU ventilator”.

When the state of alarm was declared, the Hersill company had components to manufacture 100 ventilators, and at that time Madrid was the most affected area by the epidemic.

The company immediately received an order for these 100 units from the Madrid Health Service, with the knowledge of the Ministry of Health, and managed to manufacture them in seven days.

INSTITUTIONAL AND BUSINESS COLLABORATION

The president of the company has indicated that the Ministry of Health put them in contact with the Ministry of Industry and the latter in turn with other companies to help them in the task of multiplying production capacity.

“In the current state of collapse at the international level, it is being very difficult to obtain certain components that all manufacturers of ventilators use, and for that reason it was not possible to continue production from March 24, when we exhausted the previous batch, until April 3”, he noted.

The manufacturer of electrovalves that uses this ventilator has not been able to deliver in time the quantities needed to manufacture the 5,000 ventilators that the State has ordered from Hersill, so it has been necessary to find an alternative manufacturer of valves, which has forced Hersill’s engineers to redesign part of the ventilator, readjust the software and perform numerous tests.

“We will have no choice but to make two models: the original Vitae 40 and a new, slightly larger model”, detailed Benjamín Herranz.

As for the more complex metal parts, they used to machine them on their own machines, “but we don’t have the capacity to manufacture such a large number of parts and assemble such a large amount of equipment in such a short time, because we also continue to manufacture other devices, not as media-friendly, but equally indispensable in this crisis, such as oxygen therapy equipment”.

In order to overcome these limitations, the Ministry of Industry put Hersill in contact with the company Escribano Mechanical & Engineering, a family business that also has a large capacity for high-precision machining and an important workforcce with assembly personnel.

This company has also been the depositary of the loan granted by the Official Credit Institute (ICO) to pay the suppliers of materials and components, and since last day 3 sends to Hersill’s facilities in Mostoles a part of its staff to help in the assembly and testing taskes of the Vitae 40 ventilator.

“In this way our workers can dedicate themselves to what is indispensable for us to do: identify and solve the problems and give the definitive approval of each device”, stated Benjamín Herranz, who underlined the good harmony between both family businesses.

Now, Hersill can only serve the domestic market and is turning down many orders for ventilators for other countries, noted its president, who expressed his confidence that this criss will help strengthen Spanish research and technology; “a Frenchman, an Englishman or a German usually appreciates his own technology, but many Spaniards despise ours”.

“We want to help as much as possible”, insisted the president of this company, and also stressed the importance of being “very careful” in economic matters, since they are a small company that has to deal with a very large order.

The company has assessed the price of the 5,000 ventilators it has commited to manufacture, which will be slightly higher that the first 100 “because international speculation and rush manufacturing is making some components much more expensive now”.

“The situation is incredible, companies are having to bring in components even on special flights”, explained Herranz, who noted, however, that the price of each of these ventilators is 4 and 5 times lower than that of an ICU ventilator.

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