General Motors will work with one of the nation’s largest suppliers of ventilators to help it boost the supply of the medical devices which are in critically short supply due to the rapidly expanding coronavirus pandemic.
Though details are still being worked out, leaders of the GM manufacturing team met with officials from Ventec Life Systems on Thursday to work out specific ways the automaker could assist in ramping up ventilator production. That could include a variety of steps, TheDetroitBureau.com has learned, including the use of GM plants to produce parts or even whole ventilators.
“With GM’s help, Ventec will increase ventilator production,” Chris Kiple, Ventec’s CEO said in a statement released Friday night. “By tapping their expertise, GM is enabling us to get more ventilators to more hospitals much faster. This partnership will help save lives.”
The number of Americans stricken by COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has escalated rapidly in recent days, known cases at one point increasing by about 50% in a 24-hour period. But medical experts have complained that the U.S. remains seriously short of key supplies, starting with basic tests needed to determine who has the disease. There are no vaccines nor medicines yet known that can reduce the impact of COVID-19 which, in extreme cases, causes serious lung problems. At that point, a patient is likely to require a ventilator in order to have even a chance for survival.
“If we don’t have enough ventilators, it’s obvious people who need it will not be able to get it,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the expert leading the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic said earlier this week.
Severe shortages have already been reported in some of the viral outbreak’s epicenters in the U.S., including Seattle, San Francisco and New York City.
On Wednesday, GM CEO Mary Barra told Larry Kudlow, the president’s top economic advisor, she would like to assist in efforts to attack the coronavirus. Separately, Barra was contacted by StopTheSpread, an ad hoc group seeking to coordinate action by the nation’s business community.
According to a spokesperson, the CEOs of 1,500 U.S. corporations have now signed on to work with StopTheSpread. Some, like Ventec, have specialized capabilities, such as producing ventilators. Others, such as GM, are looking for ways to use their own expertise to assist in the effort.
The group’s stated mission is to bring the business community together to see how they can help address the issues raised in dealing with the pandemic.
Within less than a day after telling the White House it was ready to help, GM flew leaders of its global manufacturing team to Bothell, a suburb of Seattle, where Ventec is based. The two companies are “looking at all options,” a GM spokesman told TheDetroitBureau.com.
Specifics are still under discussion, but several GM sources indicated the goal is to move quickly. Among the possible options:
· Using GM manufacturing know-how to help Ventec speed up its own production lines;
· Help Ventec overcome bottlenecks that may limit the supply of key ventilator parts;
· If needed, GM might be able to supply some parts, such as motors, perhaps using 3D printing technologies to produce things like ventilator masks;
· It might be possible for GM to assemble some ventilators at its own plants.
“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,” Barra said in a statement. “We will continue to explore ways to help in this time of crisis.”
Ford Motor Co. also reached out to the White House to see how it could assist in the fight against the coronavirus, though it has not yet announced any specific plans. Tesla also has expressed an interest in working to boost the supply of ventilators.