KIEV – Ukraine is dusting off Soviet-era ventilator designs that lay forgotten in a mothballed military factory for years in a bid to ramp up domestic production of equipment that could help in the fight against the coronavirus.
In response to an urgent appeal by hospitals to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for ventilators, some of the country’s wealthiest men chipped in to buy machines from abroad.
But representatives of state defense conglomerate Ukroboronprom, which runs the state-run Burevisnyk plant in Kiev, are leading an initiative for Ukraine to boost domestic output based on technology developed there long ago.
Deputy Director General of Ukroboronprom, Mustafa Nayyem, told Reuters that a computer with the relevant technical information had disappeared and the engineers that designed the ventilators were retired or dead.
Eventually officials tracked down a man who knew where printouts for the designs were kept in the factory on yellowing paper. He was working in a local supermarket.
The plant is in no fit state to restart production, so Ukroboronprom will share the technology with interested private companies and has offered to help certify a new product quickly and provide production facilities, Nayyem said.
“We will give everyone access to this documentation because we understand that the crisis is now,” Nayyem said.
“If you ask me whether there is a wizard who can come in and do everything, I would like to believe in it, but I think that now we need to … accept that industry in this country has been allowed to die for decades.”