One of the most terrifying aspects of the global Coronavirus pandemic is that the anticipated number of patients who require respiratory supports vastly outnumbers the number of available ventilators. General Motors’ American car factories may be shut down to help stop the spread, but the company announced a partnership with Ventec Life Systems to help produce ventilators to help COVID-19 victims.
From GM’s CEO Mary Barra:
“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. We will continue to explore ways to help in this time of crisis.”
It’s obviously not as easy as flipping a switch in the factory from “CARS” to “VENTILATORS,” but it’s a start. Details of the partnership are as of yet a bit thin, but it appears from Ventec’s statement that GM won’t exactly be filling its idled factories with ventilator-producing machines, but rather will lend expertise to the company to find manufacturing efficiencies:
“With GM’s help, Ventec will increase ventilator production,” said Chris Kiple, Ventec Life Systems CEO. “By tapping their expertise, GM is enabling us to get more ventilators to more hospitals much faster. This partnership will help save lives.”
The availability of ventilators is crucial to survival in many severe Coronavirus cases. New York State alone may need more than 18,000 ventilators than it already has, according to the New York Times. A lack of ventilators in Italy is already forcing doctors to make the impossible decision of who lives and who dies.
The collaboration was facilitated by StopTheSpread.org, which is a coalition of private companies attempting to aid one another to help respond to the current pandemic. Ventec itself is a seven year old company focused on home breathing apparatuses (mostly, five-in-one devices to help people suffering from a range of respiratory issues, not necessarily just pneumonia) that now finds itself as one of the front line responders to the current SARS-2 crisis, as ventilators will be critical for patients that develop into serious cases with crippling pneumonia to help ensure survival rates.
GM announced Wednesday that it would be suspending production of all manufacturing in North America due to the pandemic, which idles an incredible amount of manufacturing and supply chain power that is now open for the production of medical equipment.
Many other manufacturers have idled production, such as Honda, and yet more have considered looking into alliances with medical manufacturers and 3D printing companies, such as Volkswagen, but none have actually committed to a specific alliance thus far.
Elon Musk, of course, has talked an enormous game, but as of this publication, has not actually done anything, and kept his employees in danger far longer than was moral or neccessary despite orders to shut down.
Regardless of these initial stumblings from other manufacturers, as a chronically ill person who is definitely going to need one of these ventilators in the likely event I do become infected with COVID-19, I hope the rest of the industry follows suit shortly.