General Motors has finalized a deal for an all-American effort to boost production of medical ventilators that will help healthcare workers treat victims of the fast-spreading coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
Dubbed Project V, the partnership with Washington State-based medical equipment company Ventec has GM gearing up to build Ventec’s ventilator design at the automaker’s Kokomo, Indiana factory. GM is one of many automakers switching manufacturing efforts to medical equipment as demand for new vehicles sags under the economic weight of the COVID-19 pandemic. The GM Kokomo plant normally makes electronic components for cars.
According to the Reuters news agency, GM hopes to build as many as 200,000 ventilators through Project V, with the car company set to supply most of the parts that will make up the breathing apparatus.
General Motors is enlisting the help of its parts supplier network, too. According to GM, components made by those suppliers should start coming in during the “next 2-3 weeks,” but GM isn’t ready to say when its Kokomo-based operation might be able to start making the ventilators themselves.
Some suppliers are working non-stop to ramp up production and redesign parts in order to turn them out more quickly.
An insufficient supply of ventilators is key among the healthcare system’s concerns during the coronavirus outbreak: In Italy, where nearly 7,000 people had died from the COVID-19 illness as of March 24, doctors have had to choose which patients got ventilators. And in New York State, healthcare professionals are testing the effectiveness of using one ventilator on two patients simultaneously to mitigate that jurisdiction’s shortage of the devices.