As the US state and territory count climbs up to 96,000 novel coronavirus cases, the need for ventilators is creating a scramble as hospitals try to keep up with the number of critically ill patients crowding their emergency rooms. The crisis has demanded response from the highest levels of government and cooperation amongst the unlikeliest allies. It’s also created friction as COVID-19 spreads and tempers fray.
New York state is staggering under its 44,000+ cases of coronavirus, and Governor Andrew Cuomo's call for 30,000 ventilators drew an expression of disbelief from President Trump in follow up interviews. "You know, you go into major hospitals, sometimes they'll have two ventilators and now, all of a sudden, they're saying, 'Can we order 30,000 ventilators?'" he said in an interview. The remark created a series of jabs that caught the media’s attention but did little to address the challenge ahead.
While world leaders made headlines, medical equipment manufacturers quietly worked in the background to ramp up production of ventilators. Medtronic announced that it would double its capacity to build and supply ventilators by starting 24/7 operations at its Galway, Ireland facility. The firm will also be transferring staff from other sites to support efforts to up production and is prioritizing the best way to allocate ventilators to the highest need areas.
“Medtronic recognizes the demand for ventilators in this environment has far outstripped supply,” said Bob White, executive VP and president of Medtronic’s minimally invasive therapies group. “No single company will be able to fill the current demands of global healthcare systems. However, with all manufacturers increasing their production and through partnerships with governments, hospitals, and global health organizations, Medtronic is committed to getting more ventilators to market.”
Royal Philips CEO Frans van Houten shared that his company will be setting up a central global task force and regional task forces to coordinate the response to customer demand. The med equipment manufacturer is increasing the production of ventilators out of its Chinese factory. The firm will also use its Philips Foundation to donate medical equipment and supplies to the Thunder God Mountain Hospital in Wuhan, China. The charitable organization is also operating in severely affected counties like Kenya, South Sudan, and Italy.
Seattle-based equipment maker Ventec reported that it recently shipped 250 of its deployable ventilators. There are plans to bump up assembly to a possible 1,000 units per month in 90 days, and 2,000 per month within 120 days. Ventec will also be onboarding 100 new people to complement its current staff of 120 to accommodate the increased production.
Oxylator is a Utah-based provider of small, portable ventilator which runs on compressed oxygen instead of electricity. The firm stated that up to 1,000 of its ventilators are available for shipment and that more will be built on an as-needed basis.