General Motors, criticized by President Donald Trump for taking too long in his eyes to begin production of ventilators, delivered the first round of those aforementioned medical devices Friday to Chicago-area hospitals.
The automaker, which is partnering with Seattle-area medical equipment maker Ventec Life Systems, took about a month from the first discussions about producing ventilators to delivering them. Trump has since praise GM for its efforts.
GM inked a $489.4-million deal with the Trump administration to produce 30,000 ventilators by the end of August. The automaker said it will produce and deliver 600 by the end of April, then ramp up production levels from there.
“The passion and commitment that people at GM, Ventec and our suppliers have put into this work is inspiring,” GM CEO Mary Barra said in a statement. “We are all humbled to support the heroic efforts of medical professionals in Chicagoland and across the world who are fighting to save lives and turn the tide of the pandemic.”
GM’s components plant in Kokomo, Indiana, is building the devices using UAW workers who volunteered to take on the task. The company is in the process of training the first shift of employees and will ultimately have three shifts running to meet the 30,000 number.
“We have healthcare heroes who are on the front lines in this pandemic and we’re grateful to know there is support to attain more of the essential resources they need to care for the most critically ill patients,” said Allan M. Spooner, president and CEO of Franciscan Health Olympia Fields.
“Every single one of these ventilators will make a difference in the lives of critical COVID-19 patients and our other patients with acute respiratory illness. We are grateful and inspired by the ingenuity and dedication of everyone behind this truly lifesaving gift.”
The first round of ventilators went to Franciscan Health Olympia Fields and Weiss Memorial hospitals while UPS Inc. will deliver a third shipment to the Federal Emergency Management Agency at the Gary/Chicago International Airport on Saturday for distribution to other locations.
“For a community hospital that was already struggling with budgetary constraints prior to this crisis, these ventilators are a much-needed infusion of critical resources to care for our patients, which includes a significant elderly population,” Mary Shehan, Weiss Memorial Hospital CEO, said in a statement.
GM is not alone in its efforts. Other automakers, including Ford, Fiat Chrysler and others are also producing a variety of medical equipment. In fact, Ford just signed a deal in partnership with GE to produce 50,000 air-powered ventilators designed by Florida’s Airon Corp. The $336-million contract calls for the company to build the devices by July 13 at its Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
“Not only has GM/Ventec and the UAW set a new Trump Time standard in rapid industrial mobilization — just weeks from site construction to ventilator production — the GM/Ventec ventilators are now rolling off the line,” Peter Navarro, White House assistant to the president, said in a statement.