IRIS LADARI FUENTES | MUNDO | ESPAÑA | SPUTNIK NEWS | 08 APRIL 2021
A family business located in the Madrid city of Móstoles has been vital to face the most critical moments during the coronavirus pandemic. The reason? They were responsible for providing oxygen to the patients of COVID-19 through their ventilators.
An “enormous responsibility” at the most critical moment of the pandemic. This is how the Hersill company describes its experience in the manufacture of ventilators during the first weeks when the state of alert was declared in March 2020. The company, founded in 1973 by one of the pioneers of the sector in Spain, Benjamín Herranz Escamilla, began designing and manufacturing equipment for oxygen therapy, medical suction and emergencies, and within a few years became the leader of the national market for these products. They currently have a workforce of 75 employees and their products are exported halfway around the world.
“Days before the state of alert was declared, we were already informing the health authorities that we were manufacturers of ventilators and other oxygen therapy equipment. They immediately expressed the demand that was needed and that represented for us an immense challenge, a great responsibility, and it was necessary to devote a lot of work during those critical weeks”, the company explained to Sputnik.
5,100 VENTILATORS IN RECORD TIME
It was then that they took on their first order requested by the Ministry of Health: to manufacture in a few days a first batch of 100 ventilators. Being a relatively small company for the enormous demand, they agreed to an alliance with another Madrid company dedicated to defense and armaments, Escribano Mechanical & Engineering. Later, the authorities realized the seriousness of the pandemic, so Madrid and the other Autonomous Communities saw that they needed much more equipment. Through a joint project with the Ministry of Industry, they were able to supply 600 units a week for nine weeks up to a total of 5,000 ventilators, which were distributed throughout Spain. Currently, they not only sell to the Iberian country, they also export their ventilators to South America, Asia or North Africa.
The company is aware of the vital importance of its devices during the pandemic. Its flagship product in the health crisis has been the VITAE-40 transport ventilator, a lightweight and easy-to-transport equipment that facilitates its distribution logistics as well as its handling in tight spaces inside the ucis. “It is a complex piece of equipment that serves to artificially ventilate a patient and that, like any medical equipment, especially a device of this type, must meet the appropriate quality certifications and have passed the necessary tests so that there is a guarantee that it will fulfill its function”, they say. For the time being, they continue to fulfill their mission: “To take care of people’s health by developing reliable medical technology.”
During the first wave, between worry and uncertainty, there were many individuals and professionals who volunteered to lend a hand. “There has also been a very valuable collaboration from suppliers and companies, such as Correos, who have helped to speed up the delivery of equipment and who have made it possible for all of us to ensure that hospitals were as well equipped as possible in record time”, the company confesses.
Currently, they claim to be prepared for the upcoming fourth wave, and their clients range from all kinds of hospitals to Army personnel. All in all, Hersill has managed to manufacture 5,100 ventilators during the harshest moments of the pandemic and now manufactures on demand in order to have a reserve of 200 ventilators to guarantee an immediate supply of them. “Spain has a fairly large stock of ventilators so that, in the worst case scenario, it will be able to face an emergency situation similar to the one we suffered last year”, they say.
EXPORTS TO HALF-WORD
Their ventilators have saved lives in the world’s most critical areas. During the summer of 2020, they were present in countries like Mauritania, at a time when coronavirus infections were increasing exponentially. This aggravated the situation in the country, as the lack of specialized personnel and medical equipment in intensive care units left health workers unarmed on the battlefield of the pandemic. It was then that the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, arranged for the shipment of 10 Vitae 40 ventilators, antibacterial filters for ventilators, anaesthetic facial masks, mask harnesses, EPI, as well as medicines and consumables for diagnostic treatment. Of all the companies, they chose Hersill as the manufacturer of these products.
Its expansion has grown almost by surprise. When the company was founded in 1973, the purpose was not to export, but to create in Spain a company manufacturing medical devices, which at that time was non-existent in the country, and less 100% Spanish capital. “The export strategy came about some time later in 1997, when we first decided to attend as an exhibitor at the international trade fair of reference in the sector: the Medica trade fair in Düsseldorf”, they say.
Hersill is currently present in Asia, North Africa and also Latin America. In particular, the region accounted for 10.5% of its total sales in 2020. The countries where demand has grown the most have been Colombia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Bolivia and the range of products that have sold the most have been from the family of Medical Aspiration, Oxygenotherapy and Anesthesia.
BEYOND THE VENTILATORS
In addition to ventilators, they produce many other devices in the fight against the pandemic, such as flow meters, vacuum regulators, anaesthesia machines, manual resuscitators and laryngoscopes. For example, every time a bed is opened in a hospital, it needs to be equipped with a flow meter and a vacuum regulator. The flow meters serve to give oxygen to the patient, essential for COVID patients in a less severe condition who usually receive oxygen therapy treatments, and the vacuum regulators serve to suck, clear mucus and secretions the patient’s respiratory tract.
In four months, Hersill has managed to supply 51,800 oxygen flow meters – including the entire temporary hospital in Madrid built inside the IFEMA conference hall facilities, which were 5,000 – and 16,500 vacuum regulators, of which 820 were also for IFEMA.
In the case of anesthesia machines, their usual use is to supply gas to a patient who is in the operating room during surgery. Manual resuscitators, mostly used by emergency services, allow the patient to be ventilated manually and not automatically. Finally, laryngoscopes are used for the intubation of a patient, facilitating the conduction of the tube into the trachea. These are just a few examples of their products. Hersill has been able to draw on all its experience in the industry for almost half a century to become, during the pandemic, the lungs of half the world.