Chip shortage could hit supplies of critical medtech devices

Supplies of critical life-saving medical devices could soon take a hit due to the continuing global shortage of semiconductor chips, medtech manufacturers have warned.

A TOI report said the shortage could 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.

Medtech players said that by the end of the year stocks could be significantly impacted and prices could go up by as much as 20 per cent.

The lead time in manufacturing chips has already jumped from 4-8 weeks to 30-40 weeks now, and for some components to 100 weeks, leading to disruptions and 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 year end when existing stocks of microprocessor chips may get depleted,” Sunil Khurana, CEO and MD of BPL Medical Technologies told TOI.

The market has already run out of devices like patient monitors, defibrillators and ECGs that use touchscreens — all of which use chips that are imported from China, the US and Japan.

Some manufacturers said the present bottleneck was because the country neglected the computer hardware sector since the 90’s, unlike China, and did not try to become self-reliant.

“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.


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