Covid-19: Irish forklift company develop new device to ease ICU ventilator shortages

The Combi-Ventilate can be used to treat a number of people in ICU at same the time

An Irish forklift manufacturer based in Monaghan has applied expertise in engineering and software design to develop a new “ventilator splitter” that can be used for a combination of seriously-ill people with Covid-19 in ICU at the one time.

The Combi-Ventilate overcomes risks arising from a shortage of ventilators and was developed by a team of mechatronic and software engineers in collaboration with the HSE over the past five weeks.

It is currently undergoing laboratory tests being overseen by Ger Curley, professor of anaesthesia and critical care at Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, who is based at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin.

Combilift chief executive Martin McVicar said the ventilator system was developed because "certain countries and cities are struggling to get enough ventilators".


The device uses standard pipes and fittings for easy assembly and its individual patient filters prevent cross contamination. Each patient has a dedicated screen which allows medical professionals to individually monitor their vital signs. It includes live values, data on patient history and adjustable alarm settings.

The Combi-Ventilate has automatically adjustable flow control valves which allow health service professionals to control the tidal volume of oxygen to each patient electronically without having to make manual adjustments.

Mr McVicar added: “We have undertaken this non-profit endeavour to meet and facilitate the demands of the global crisis for health services around the world; the lack or shortage of ventilators. If our product can save lives, if we can make a difference during these hard times then we are making the world a better place for everyone.”

The attachment can be added to any brand of ventilator, he confirmed. “It costs a fraction of a standard ventilator and can be installed very easily into an ICU unit environment.”

Dr Michael Power, national clinical lead with the HSE said the Combi-Ventilate was a safe and reliable attachment for ventilators for use in an ICU setting in that unwanted scenario where there was one ventilator for multiple patients. "It removes that horrible dilemma. The Combi-Ventilate is safe and reliable. It is an engineered solution which delivers the correct volume of air to each patient safely and reliably," he added.

The HSE’s national medical device equipment adviser Ronnie McDermott said it would be very useful in developing world countries who may not have the luxury to go out and purchase many ventilators. “Splitting a ventilator is now a viable solution,” he said.

Enterprise Ireland chief executive Julie Sinnamon said Irish companies were innovating in response to Covid-19 and it was exciting to see Combilift use its manufacturing expertise to develop the Combi-Ventilate. "We look forward to continuing to work with Combilift, and other Irish companies, as they continue to develop new and innovative solutions in response to the crisis."

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times