The Department of Health and Human Services placed the order through Ventec’s partner, General Motors, which is scheduled to produce 6,132 machines by June 1 and the remainder in August. The ramp-up of production lines at a GM plant in Kokomo, Indiana, which is typically used to manufacture precision auto parts, is expected to take several weeks.
Ventec chief strategy officer Chris Brooks said on Wednesday that although his business continues to increase its own production at Bothell – which is expected to increase tenfold to 2,000 fans per month by summer – the Government contract focuses only on units under construction in Indiana.
“Our goal right now is to do whatever it takes to get these GM units online,” said Brooks, adding that a team led by Ventec design and production engineers has been visiting the Indiana plant for two years. weeks.
It was unclear whether Ventec or GM would be the main contractor since the two were directly involved in the negotiations. The suppliers said that GM paid them directly.
“We are grateful to the GM team for working with the federal government to increase the supply of ventilators in our country as the pandemic evolves,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar.
President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act on March 27, effectively ordering GM to build fans. War-time law allowed the federal government to compel companies to build the necessary supplies.
Earlier today, GM and Ventec had already announced that they would produce the fans after the Trump administration canceled the announcement of a deal to buy the devices. In tweets that day, Trump criticized GM, imploring the company to “START MANUFACTURING FANS NOW !!!!!! “
“GM and Ventec Life Systems are working quickly and urgently to provide front-line healthcare professionals with the critical care ventilators they need to treat critically ill patients,” GM said in a statement on Wednesday. “GM is proud to deploy its purchasing and manufacturing capabilities alongside Ventec’s respiratory care expertise. We will continue to explore ways to help in this time of crisis. “
Ford also plans to produce fans, in partnership with Florida-based Airon.
Hospital demand for ventilators is expected to soon exceed approximately 10,000 in the federal inventory. The University of Washington Institute of Metrology and Health Assessment said that 16,524 ventilators will be needed this weekend to treat patients with COVID-19, while national use of medical resources is expected peak.
The fans produced by GM will be what Brooks has called “a slightly modified configuration” of VOCSN, saving production time and money. The modified version of V-Pro will provide patients with high pressure oxygen and has special software for a specific response that doctors use to treat COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
“VOCSN is an intensive care ventilator, so it allows you to provide a very powerful and very precise airflow to the patient,” said Brooks. “If you over-inflate the lungs … and if you under-inflate the lungs, you can cause patient damage or death. It is therefore essential to be able to supply this very precise air to the patient.
“And then, when you think about how the patient is recovering … you might want to wean them off the ventilator.” It’s also a bit of an art and a science. “
The average cost of a GM-produced fan, $ 17,000, is about what the VOCSN normally sells, although modified versions lack its nebulizer and suction features. Integrated costs include new tools and accessories, including bacterial filters and roller supports, as well as configuration.
“Of course, we never built aircraft with General Motors,” said Brooks. “There’s a whole new supply chain and re-tooling going into production that literally goes from start to finish in a matter of weeks. “
Brooks confirmed that GM is still providing its plant and 1,000 workers “at cost” to the company.
The absence of certain features also means that the units will require three people to monitor patients, with additional machines; patients on unmodified VOCSN respirators can be followed up with one or two doctors.