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Critical shortage of chips hits life-saving medtech devices


MUMBAI: The severe shortage of semiconductor chips is now going to hit where it hurts — critical life-saving devices and the medtech industry. The growing uncertainty and supply disruptions of chips globally has already led to an increase in prices of certain devices, with some facing stockouts across the country. But more importantly, the shortages now threaten availability of hundreds of chip-powered critical care and ICU devices including ventilators, defibrillators, imaging machines, glucose, ECG, blood pressure monitors and implantable pacemakers. By year-end, the impact on stocks could get worse, and overall prices are expected to go up as high as 20%, medtech players told TOI. So far, the spotlight has been on the impact of chips’ shortage on high-profile, consumer driven sectors like automobiles and electronics. Already, the lead time in manufacturing of chips has jumped from the earlier four-to-eight weeks to 30-40 weeks now and, in certain components, even 100 weeks. This has disrupted delivery schedules of manufacturers, leading to huge delays. At present, we are able to manage the demand and hold the prices of the devices. The uncertainty is, however, growing and an acute shortage may hit us by yearend when existing stocks of microprocessor chips may get depleted,” said Sunil Khurana, CEO & MD of BPL Medical Technologies, which sells anaesthesia machines, patient monitors and ICU ventilators. For instance, the market has already run out of devices like patient monitors, defibrillators and ECGs that use touchscreens. The chips are sourced from domestic vendors who import these from China, Japan, Taiwan and the US. “The industry has sensitised the Centre several times since 2012 about the need to build our semiconductor fabrication plants to become truly ‘Atma Nirbhar’ in electronics and medtech. In the mid-’90s, we had a robust and vibrant computer hardware sector. Thereafter, it was neglected. We were caught sleeping while China had a clear executable strategy. It’s time to look at this with priority. If we don’t have time to invent, we could blindly copy the China hardware model. It’s late but still possible to be fairly ‘Atma Nirbhar’ in 10 years if there is a separate ministry for self-reliance and a non-political experts’ panel,” said Vishwaprasad Alva, MD of Skanray Technologies, manufacturer of critical care and ICU equipment.


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