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Monday, 17 August 2020 20:00

GM is About to Leave Ventilator Business: How it Made 30,000 Machines With Ventec

Written by Jamie L. LaReau, Detroit Free Press
Ventec Life Systems clinical team members in April show respiratory and clinical staff at Franciscan Health Olympia Fields Hospital in Chicago how to operate VOCSN critical care ventilators. Ventec Life Systems clinical team members in April show respiratory and clinical staff at Franciscan Health Olympia Fields Hospital in Chicago how to operate VOCSN critical care ventilators. Nuccio DiNuzzo, for General Motors

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Five months ago, as the coronavirus pandemic surged across the nation, the urgency to build more critical care ventilators swelled to meet a shortage of the life saving machines.

So General Motors and Ventec Life Systems teamed up to produce ventilators. In just two weeks, the companies will deliver the full 30,000 ventilators they owe the U.S. government, helping to bring the U.S. stockpile closer to an inventory level that positions the nation to withstand any near-term pandemic spikes.

 

"While there is not currently a shortfall of ventilators in the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), the new ventilators procured during the COVID-19 response will ensure the United States is prepared to respond to any hotspots in the coming months as well as any future public health emergency response that might require these devices for lifesaving care," said Amber Dukes, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in an email to the Free Press.

 

The Strategic National Stockpile has more than 95,100 ventilators available for deployment to hospitals across the U.S. as of Aug. 13. The stockpiled devices can be used as "a short-term, stop-gap buffer when the immediate supply is not sufficient," Dukes said. 

 

But the unknown future demand for ventilators means Ventec executives will still need to run their production operations on a month-by-month basis at GM's facilities in Kokomo, IN, they say.

 

At month's end, when GM and Ventec complete building the ventilators owed to the government as part of a $489 million contract, GM will return its focus to the car business. Ventec will then lease factory space from GM at the plant to keep making the ventilators. For how long is anybody's guess. 

 

"That is the million-dollar and $5-million-dollar question," said an executive at Ventec, who asked to not be identified due to the sensitivity of the subject. “How many will we need?"

 

As of Aug. 13, the stockpile had sent 14,957 ventilators to public health jurisdictions nationwide to help in the pandemic response, Dukes said.


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