The medical device production company Medtronic pledges to 24/7 ventilator production amid the coronavirus outbreak. According to the president of Minimally Invasive Therapies Group at Medtronic, no single company will be able to meet the demands that the coronavirus has put on the need for ventilators. However, commitments from non-medical industries, including General Motors and Ford, should help fill in the gaps to get healthcare providers the equipment they need to treat the maximum number of people. These changes are the result of the Defense Production Act that President Trump signed on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. The act seeks to ramp up production and distribution of ventilators as well as protective equipment and other essential supplies to hospitals.
The COVID-19 virus spreads across the country, the demand for ventilators to treat critically ill patients increases. Demand for the breathing devices have surpassed the supply of most hospitals. As a result, lawmakers and the FDA are asking medical industries to increase production. However, as Medtronic noted, making ventilators is a complex process. The company stated that its production center located in Galway, Ireland makes high-performance ventilators for very sick patients. The center currently has 250 employees, but this number will likely double to meet the demands of increased production. The company stated that it will transfer staff from other locations and will add new shift patterns to make sure the plant is operating 24/7. Medtronic did not state when this new around-the-clock production would begin.
The company also stated that it will be distributing the ventilators to areas with the highest risk. Medtronic plans to continue to monitor the situation to correctly prioritize its distribution process of the devices. According to Medtronic’s Minimally Invasive Therapies Group, the GI, renal, and respiratory business brought in $702 million during their last quarter. Medtronic CEO Omar Ishak tweeted that the company is introducing software for remote patient monitoring and screening on their ventilators. This feature would enable healthcare workers to treat patients and manage the ventilators without getting close to them.
Medtronic announced back in February that they would give $1.2 million to the global COVID-19 response efforts. This includes donations of respiratory filters, ventilators, and pulse sensors and oximeters to a hospital in Wuhan, China. Also during February, Medtronic told the company’s investors that there may be a negative impact on the quarter’s earnings due to the procedures in China. The next earnings call for Medtronic is scheduled for May 21. GE Healthcare also announced that it would be increasing ventilator output along with the production of mobile X-ray systems, ultrasound devices, patient monitors, and CTs. CEO Karen Murphy stated that they will continue to support the increased need by exploring all of their options.
GE Healthcare also stated that they added manufacturing shifts and lines to their production centers. They have hired more employees and moved staff to ventilator production sites to attempt to mitigate shortages. The company provides personal protective gear to field service engineers. They are also trying to increase remote repair abilities and diagnostics to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Phillips made a similar announcement by indicating that the company’s Chinese manufacturing is increasing output to create more diagnosing imaging systems, including ventilators and patient monitors. CEO Fran van Houten stated that the company is working closely with suppliers to feed their manufacturing sites and suppliers.
Swedish medical technology company Getinge also plans to increase ventilator production by 60% this year compared to last year. Other major medical ventilator makers plan to increase production outside of Medtronic, including Tesla. The company is currently accessing how they can contribute to the healthcare emergency crisis, especially after President Trump’s passing of the Defense Production Act. The FDA is currently assessing guidelines needed to make it easier for manufacturers to get ventilators into the hands of those who desperately need them. These combined efforts from leading companies and decision makers seek to flatten the curve associated with the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak These decisions and increased output are needed to avoid as many deaths as possible.