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Medtronic Has Ramped Up Ventilator Production
Reports a 40% Increase; On Track to More Than Doubling in Wake of COVID-19
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Puritan Bennett™ 980 ventilator by Medtronic
Puritan Bennett™ 980 ventilator by Medtronic
March 19, 2020 -- Masks, personal protective equipment (PPE), test kits and ventilators are the medical commodities that are in critically short (or no) supply that hospitals need to combat the devastating effects of the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

Medtronic, manufacturer of the Puritan Bennett line of ventilators, reports that it has already increased production by 40% and is "on track" to achieve twice the normal output. Manufactured in Galway, Ireland, Medtronic's workforce numbers 250. The company is doubling that, bringing in new people and transferring staff from other Medtronic sites, and reconfiguring its plant to operate 24/7. The shortages are worldwide - in fact globally the number of ventilators/1000 patients is higher in the U.S. than in most European countries currently experiencing this pandemic, but no hospital system in any country has enough.

Ventilators are used to help patients breathe when the COVID-19 virus advances to pneumonia and additional respiratory issues. The ventilator helps keep the patient alive until hopefully the disease and the body's reaction to it abates.

Currently United States hospitals have around 160,000 (plus an estimated 13,000 in a government stockpile, yet to be released) -- not nearly enough to treat the surge of coronavirus cases expected to arrive in the nation's ICUs in the coming weeks.

Twitter is filled with informal requests for more ventilators. The Washington Post reports that the British government is discussing retooling the assembly lines of manufacturers such as Rolls-Royce, Airbus, Jaguar Land Rover, Vauxhall and Dyson to put the country on a WWII-like effort to produce more. Car manufacturers in the U.S. have also been approached. Yesterday Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, tweeted this reply:

"Tesla makes cars with sophisticated hvac systems. SpaceX makes spacecraft with life support systems. Ventilators are not difficult, but cannot be produced instantly. Which hospitals have these shortages you speak of right now?" -- @ElonMusk

His tweet was met with much derision, since it's quite well-known that virtually every hospital is in need and it's certainly not necessary to ask "which hospitals?" The Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio had this odd exchange with Musk:

"Our country is facing a drastic shortage and we need ventilators ASAP — we will need thousands in this city over the next few weeks. We’re getting them as fast as we can but we could use your help! We’re reaching out to you directly." -- @NYCMayor

"Sounds good, we will connect with your team to understand potential needs." -- @ElonMusk

(A side-note: Musk has expressed his opinion that the reaction to COVID-19 is overblown, and has kept his California plant open, even though the counties instituted a "sheltered-in-place" policy since Tuesday. Late update: Tesla has closed its plant and suspended operations temporarily as of this writing.)

However, perhaps it's not necessary for a novice start-up to have to learn the production process from scratch. There already are companies that manufacture ventilators and have the expertise and capabilities to produce this life-saving equipment. As Medtronic states in its press release below, "Ventilator manufacturing is a complex process that relies on a skilled workforce, a global supply chain and a rigorous regulatory regime to ensure patient safety." Besides Medtronic, GE Healthcare, Becton Dickinson, Philips, Allied Healthcare Products, ResMed, and others also make ventilators and at this time, many are in the process of ramping up production.

Yesterday's press release from Medtronic follows:

Medtronic Continuing to Increase Ventilator Production to Address COVID-19 Pandemic

March 18, 2020 -- Dublin -- Medtronic plc (NYSE:MDT), the global leader in medical technology, continues to make progress in increasing ventilator production worldwide. The company has increased production by more than 40 percent to date and is on track to more than double its capacity to manufacture and supply ventilators in response to the urgent needs of patients and healthcare systems across the globe confronting COVID-19.

Medtronic recognizes the acute need for ventilators as life-saving devices in the management of COVID-19 infections. High-performance ventilators play a critical role in the management of patients with severe respiratory illness, such as COVID-19, who require assistance because they cannot breathe effectively. By placing a patient on such a ventilator, the patient’s lungs are permitted to rest and recover while the ventilator performs the functions of supplying oxygen and simulating the actions of breathing. Without ventilation support, some patients with severe respiratory disease might not survive.

Medtronic is an industry leader in respiratory care and device innovation. The company produces high performance ventilators for a variety of care settings, including the acute segment (in-hospital patients in intensive care units, emergency departments or on the general care floors) and the sub-acute segment (out of hospital, long-term care facilities or home-ventilated patients). Medtronic manufactures the Puritan Bennett™ 980 (PB 980) and Puritan Bennett™ 840 (PB 840) high performance ventilators in Galway, Ireland, which are primarily designed for critically ill patients in high acuity setting. A COVID-19 patient (with or without an underlying health issue) could be such a critically ill patient.

Medtronic Demand and Supply
Ventilator demand has significantly increased in light of COVID-19, and Medtronic continues to work to meet this increased global demand. Ventilator manufacturing is a complex process that relies on a skilled workforce, a global supply chain and a rigorous regulatory regime to ensure patient safety.

In recent weeks, Medtronic has identified additional opportunities to further increase its ventilator manufacturing capacity. In the company’s Ireland ventilator manufacturing facility, the company currently has over 250 employees dedicated to ventilator manufacturing and plans to more than double that number, including transferring staff from other Medtronic sites to support ramp up activities. Additional manufacturing shifts have been put in place and new manufacturing shift patterns are being introduced to bring the plant to 24/7 operation. With a strong commitment across Medtronic and its suppliers – combined with the increased staffing – the company expects to be able to more than double its manufacturing capacity for ventilators.

Medtronic is prioritizing high risk/high needs areas for ventilator allocation on a weekly basis for global distribution through its supply chain. COVID-19 is a dynamic global issue, and Medtronic will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates to its employees, customers and investors as the situation warrants.

“Medtronic recognizes the demand for ventilators in this environment has far outstripped supply,” said Bob White, executive vice president and president of the Minimally Invasive Therapies Group at Medtronic. “No single company will be able to fill the current demands of global healthcare systems. However, with all manufacturers increasing their production and through partnerships with governments, hospitals and global health organizations, Medtronic is committed to getting more ventilators into the market and to the right locations in the world to help doctors and patients dealing with COVID-19.”

About Medtronic
Medtronic plc (, headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, is among the world’s largest medical technology, services and solutions companies – alleviating pain, restoring health and extending life for millions of people around the world. Medtronic employs more than 90,000 people worldwide, serving physicians, hospitals and patients in more than 150 countries. The company is focused on collaborating with stakeholders around the world to take healthcare Further, Together.

Any forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties such as those described in Medtronic's periodic reports on file with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Actual results may differ materially from anticipated results.

Reported by Burt Cohen, March 19, 2020