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Leon Kaye headshot

The Shortage of Ventilators is a Crisis Within a Crisis. Here’s How Medtronic is Helping

With ventilators in short supply, one company stepping up to do its part during this pandemic crisis is the medical device company Medtronic.
By Leon Kaye

We’re sadly familiar by now with the global shortage of ventilators, in addition to the controversies over how the federal government has deployed the Defense Protection Act and Strategic National Stockpile as a response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. And we have seen no shortage of stories about how healthcare workers are forced to improvise under the most excruciating of circumstances.

If there’s ever been a time when companies forgo competition for the sake of cooperation and thereby putting society first, clearly this pandemic is screaming for such a 180-degree turn now.

Medtronic is doing more than ramping up production of ventilators

One company that has stepped up to do its part during the crisis is the medical device company Medtronic.

Last month, Medtronic announced it would strive to boost its production of ventilators by 40 percent, with the goal to double its total global manufacturing capacity of these critical lifesaving devices this year. Shortly after that, the company announced it would contribute at least $10 million to COVID-19 relief efforts around the world.

But how Medtronic has really stood out is with its decision last week to make one of its ventilator models, the PB560, open-source and available for sharing with inventors, startups and academics in a bid to increase production. “No one company can deliver all the products and supplies needed for this global pandemic,” the company said in a public statement. “We will only defeat the virus by acting in unison, with smart and focused strategies for production, allocation and resourcing.”

Meanwhile, Medtronic has said it expects to soon see the rate of its ventilator manufacturing to surge from 300 to 1,000 units a week.

Going beyond boosting capacity, Medtronic is also sharing its technology

Since that announcement, reactions by both the public and private sectors have been swift. Foxconn disclosed this week it would pivot manufacturing operations at its Wisconsin plant to assemble ventilators in a partnership with Medtronic. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reportedly approved the company’s effort to market its PB560, a lower-cost ventilator that is priced under $10,000. Pricing for most ventilators on the market can run anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000.

Medtronic’s efforts are underway as today’s reality behooves the company to practice social distancing and become even more cognizant of hygiene like the rest of us. According to the company, managers repeatedly stress the importance of personal safety and hygiene. In addition to the necessary handwashing stations, employees’ desks have been spaced apart, and corridors across manufacturing plants allow walking in only one direction. Employees who can work from home have been told to do so.

Medical device manufacturers are responding in kind

Other ventilator manufacturers have also entered into agreements to meet the surging global demand. This week, Philips said it has made a deal with the White House to make up to 43,000 ventilators. GM and Ventec finalized a deal to manufacture 30,000 ventilators at a cost of almost a half billion dollars. The German healthcare device manufacturer Draeger announced last month it would try to move workers around and add shifts so it could help meet demand. And GE workers have been vocal about their desire to shift gears so that the company’s healthcare division can ramp up production of these devices.

But as of press time, Medtronic stands apart for its decision to make one of its models available for licensing without a fee.

“Make no mistake: People are paying close attention to how companies respond — and how they treat their stakeholders when it matters most,” TriplePundit’s senior editor Mary Mazzoni wrote last month when assessing corporate America’s responsibility for doing what it can do to help ease the pain everyone is feeling during this crisis.

Based on Medtronic’s decisive actions so far, this company and its 98,000 employees have good reason to believe its brand will be remembered long after society emerges from this pandemic.

Image credit: Unsplash

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

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