The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus has led to a shortage of critical medical supplies such as ventilators.
Ventilators are used to treat patients that are suffering from severe acute respiratory failure and are a vital resource for those with extreme symptoms of COVID-19. The machines pump air and oxygen into the lungs when the patients can no longer breathe on their own.
There are approximately 745,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally and more than 35,300 confirmed deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. And the numbers continue to rise.
According to the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, the U.S. currently has about 160,000 ventilators available, but it is estimated that about 740,000 are needed.
The dire need for ventilators has even gotten the attention of President Donald Trump, who attacked General Motors (GM) and Ford (F) on Twitter Friday and ordered the companies to start making ventilators.
As usual with “this” General Motors, things just never seem to work out. They said they were going to give us 40,000 much needed Ventilators, “very quickly”. Now they are saying it will only be 6000, in late April, and they want top dollar. Always a mess with Mary B. Invoke “P”.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 27, 2020
General Motors MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant, and START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!!!!!! FORD, GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!!!!!! @GeneralMotors @Ford— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 27, 2020
GM partnered with smaller manufacturer Ventec Life Systems, and the two companies are aiming to produce around 10,000 ventilators per month starting next month. “Ventec and GM are working around the clock to meet the urgent need for more ventilators. Efforts to set up tooling and manufacturing capacity at the GM Kokomo facility are already underway to produce Ventec's critical care ventilator, VOCSN,” the companies said in a joint statement March 27.
Meanwhile, Ford announced Monday that in collaborating with GE Healthcare, the two companies will produce 50,000 ventilators within the next 100 days, with the ability to produce 30,000 per month afterwards. The ventilators will be made at Ford’s Michigan plant.
“The Ford and GE Healthcare teams, working creatively and tirelessly, have found a way to produce this vitally needed ventilator quickly and in meaningful numbers,” Jim Hackett, Ford’s president and CEO said in a statement. “By producing this ventilator in Michigan, in strong partnership with the UAW, we can help health care workers save lives, and that’s our No. 1 priority.” GE Healthcare accounts for approximately 15% of GE’s total revenue.
Several other manufacturers are stepping up to the plate to ramp up ventilator production as quickly as possible.
German medical-technology company Draegerwerk announced March 13 that the German government ordered 10,000 ventilators. In a statement, Draegerwerk said the delivery of the order will be spread out across a year and will require a significant boost in production at its Lubeck plant. “The orders will have a positive effect on Dräger’s economic situation and earnings,” the company said.
Draeger’s products are sold in more than 190 countries, and about 80% of the company’s sales are generated outside of its headquarters in Germany.
On March 22, Dutch health-tech company Philips announced that it would be increasing production of critical care products to aid the fight against the deadly coronavirus.
“There is an unprecedented global demand for medical equipment to help diagnose and treat patients with COVID-19. We are working around the clock to double our hospital ventilator production within the next eight weeks and we are aiming for a four-fold increase by the third quarter,” Philips CEO Frans van Houten said in a statement.
Philips noted that even as the company is able to resume operations despite COVID-19, global supply chains were disrupted and Philips consumer business has taken a hit. “While this is expected to have a negative impact on the financial performance of Philips in the first half of 2020, the company cannot quantify the magnitude and duration of such impact at this time given the continued fluidity of the situation.”
Dublin-based medical-tech giant Medtronic (MDT) is also at the forefront of ventilator production. Medtronic announced that it would be increasing its own production and would be sharing its design specifications for its Puritan Bennett 560 (PB 560) ventilators to encourage more manufacturing.
“Medtronic recognizes the acute need for ventilators as life-saving devices in the management of COVID-19 infections. We know this global crisis needs a global response,” Bob White, executive vice president and president of the Minimally Invasive Therapies Group at Medtronic, said in a statement.
New Zealand-based Fisher & Paykel Healthcare announced its dedication to increasing production of ventilators March 23. “As we advised last week, we have ramped up our manufacturing output and this will continue under the Level 4 alert status. As an essential service, we are continuing to focus on meeting the global demand for our respiratory products that are directly involved in treating patients with COVID-19,” CEO Lewis Gradon said in a statement.
Fisher & Paykel Healthcare employs more than 4,500 people globally, and according to its 2019 annual report, 60% of its operating revenue was from invasive ventilation, non-invasive ventilation, nasal high flow therapy and surgery. The company’s operating revenue grew 9% in 2019 to $1.07 billion NZD.
Other major manufacturers of ventilators include Vyaire Medical and Hamilton Medical.
Heidi Chung is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @heidi_chung.
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