As the coronavirus pandemic escalates, a critical shortage of medical devices has developed, but General Motors is teaming up with Seattle-based Ventec to ramp up production of desperately needed ventilators.
- Ventilators are essential for treating severe cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
- The devices are in extremely short supply, especially in the cities hardest hit by the pandemic, like NY, LA and Seattle.
- GM will lend a hand its manufacturing expertise to leading ventilator producer Ventec Life Systems, and possibly supply needed parts.
A completed Ventec ventilator. GM will help the Seattle-based company address shortages and could supply parts, possibly even build some of the machines. (Photo: Ventec Life Systems)
Efforts to control the coronavirus epidemic are rapidly escalating, the citizens in three states already on virtual lockdown. But cases of COVID-19 are escalating at a double-digit rate and authorities fear the death toll will escalate because of a shortage of key medical supplies, starting with basic testing kits.
The disease can have a range of symptoms – indeed, some victims may not even know they are sick. But more severe cases can result in pneumonia which, if not quickly treated can lead to death. In such cases, ventilators are essential, but there are simply not enough to go around.
On Wednesday, General Motors advised the White House it wanted to assist in the battle against the pandemic. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra was subsequently contacted by StopTheSpread, an ad hoc group that now counts 1,500 American CEOs as members. Some, like Ventec, have reached out for assistance. Others, such as GM, are looking for ways to lend a hand.
Ventec Life Systems is considered one of the leading producers of ventilators but can’t roll them out fast enough. By Thursday, Ride.tech has learned, GM had a team on the ground at Ventec headquarters in Bothell, Washington studying ways to assist.
GM CEO Mary Barra approached the White House offering aid on Wednesday. (Photo: GM)
“We are working closely with Ventec to rapidly scale up production of their critically important respiratory products to support our country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mary Barra, GM Chairman and CEO. “We will continue to explore ways to help in this time of crisis.”
Specific plans are still being formalized, but several GM sources indicated the goal is to move quickly, with several possible solutions under discussion:
- Using GM manufacturing know-how to help Ventec speed up its own production lines;
- Help Ventec overcome bottlenecks that may limit the supply of key ventilator parts;
- If needed, GM might be able to supply some parts, such as motors, perhaps using 3D printing technologies to produce things like ventilator masks;
- It might be possible for GM to assemble some ventilators at its own plants.
“With GM’s help, Ventec will increase ventilator production,” Chris Kiple, Ventec’s CEO said in a statement. “By tapping their expertise, GM is enabling us to get more ventilators to more hospitals much faster. This partnership will help save lives.”
GM isn’t the only automaker that wants to help in the battle against the coronavirus. Ford Motor Co. has also contacted the White House to offer assistance and, shortly afterwards, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said his company would like to use 3D printing technology to produce things like ventilator masks.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the expert leading the Trump Administration’s response to the pandemic, said earlier this week that an impending shortage of ventilators could prove deadly to many of the patients struck with the most severe cases of COVID-19. As the spread of the disease escalates, increasing production of the devices – and quickly – will prove essential.