Less than a month after holding its first talks with ventilator company Ventec Life Systems about making the much-needed devices, General Motors Corp. GM said production had begun at its plant in Kokomo, Indiana.
The Ventec V+Pro units are being produced under GM’s $489.4 million contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The contract calls for GM to provide 30,000 ventilators for the Strategic National Stockpile by the end of August and 6,132 by the end of June.
More than 600 ventilators will be shipped this month, according to GM, with almost half the full order filled by the end of June. Even after all 30,000 ventilators are delivered by the August deadline, GM said it has the capacity to build more.
“Thousands of men and women at GM, Ventec, our suppliers and the Kokomo community have rallied to support their neighbors and the medical professionals on the front lines of this pandemic,” said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra in a statement. “Everyone wants to help turn the tide and save lives. It is inspiring and humbling to see the passion and commitment people have put into this work.”
“This partnership is an historic effort and a great reminder of what can be accomplished with the power of American innovation and American manufacturing skill uniting together around a singular mission to save lives,” added Ventec CEO Chris Kiple.
GM and Ventec executives first discussed the possibility of collaborating to manufacture ventilators on March 14. The devices, necessary to treat patients most critically ill with COVID-19 are in short supply due to the sudden influx of cases. Those talks occurred weeks before Pres. Donald Trump issued a memorandum ordering GM to produce ventilators in order to meet the President’s goal of acquiring 100,000 of the devices by July 1. Ahead of that document, Trump had complained on Twitter the automaker and its CEO Mary Barra were taking too long to build the ventilators.
According to a timeline provided by GM, on March 20 the automaker engaged its global supply base and within 72 hours had secured sourcing 100% of the necessary parts to build ventilators.
White House Assistant to the President, Peter Navarro saluted the companies for their fast action in a statement, saying, “GM has moved swiftly in Trump time to manufacture one of the most critical lifesaving devices in America’s war against the coronavirus. GM’s rapid mobilization of America’s manufacturing might in defense of our country is a proud salute to the ingenuity of its engineers, the true grit of its UAW workers on the line, and America’s doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals fighting for our lives at the front lines.”
Navarro said the initial units will be sent to hospitals in Gary, Indiana, Chicago and “far beyond.”
The urgent need for ventilators was further addressed by Royal Philips, based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The company said Tuesday it plans to boost production of hospital ventilators to 4,000 a week by the third quarter and is introducing the Philips Respironics E30 ventilator, ramping up production to 15,000 units a week this month by partnering with healthcare industry companies Jabil, Flex Ltd. FLEX and others.
The Respironics E30 can be used when there is limited access to a fully-featured critical care ventilator, Philips said in a release.
The device was approved for use during the COVID-19 emergency in the U.S. last week by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.