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Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, February 24, 2019 11:49AM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 25, 2019 5:03PM EST

TORONTO — In Dr. Joao Rezende-Neto’s 25-year career as a trauma surgeon, he’s only twice dealt with patients who insisted on forking over big bucks to buy equipment for a procedure.

One instance occurred in Brazil, where medical technology is far less advanced, and his patient needed a tracheostomy — a procedure involving an incision made in the windpipe to clear breathing obstructions.

The patient’s family was so intent that the procedure be done with a specific device that minimizes the incision that they shelled out $5,000 to have the equipment imported.

“In my trauma centre we had 10,000 traumas a year and every week we did 10 or 15 tracheostomies,” Rezende-Neto recalled. “I thought this is unfair. Why can’t we have this (device) for everyone?”

The incident was so powerful that Rezende-Neto invented a device to make such procedures more efficient and less expensive. However, getting it approved and commercialized has come with challenges — a hallmark of the clinical medicine field.

Experts say the sector is ripe for technology, but doctors are often pushed towards research instead of entrepreneurship and can find themselves lacking funding and support, leaving ideas for more efficient devices and cost-saving innovations unrealized.

“It takes so long to get things to get to market and it is so expensive that for small- or even medium-sized companies, they just cannot survive in Canada,” she said. “If we want to keep our Canadian companies here, they need a lot more support around them than what we currently do.”

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Doctors who invent medical devices find barriers to making money


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