GM Delivers First Ventilators to Hospitals

Workers pack the first VOCSN critical care ventilators for shipping Thursday, April 16, 2020, from the General Motors manufacturing facility in Kokomo, Indiana. GM and Ventec Life Systems are partnering to produce the ventilators in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by AJ Mast for General Motors)

A month or so ago, General Motors and Washington-based Ventec Life Systems announced they’d be partnering to produce critical care ventilators at GM’s Kokomo, Ind., plant.

On Friday, that partnership bore its first fruit.

The first critical care ventilators they produced were delivered by to Franciscan Health Olympia Fields in Olympia Fields, Ill., and Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago at the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The milestone shipments are putting important tools in the hands of frontline medical professionals treating patients seriously ill with COVID-19.

Franciscan Health Olympia Fields received their shipment early Friday morning and Weiss Memorial was set to receive theirs Friday afternoon. A third shipment from GM-Kokomo will be delivered by UPS to FEMA at the Gary/Chicago International Airport on Saturday for distribution to other locations where the need is greatest.

The deliveries are the culmination of a partnership between GM and Ventec Life Systems that began with a phone call exactly one month ago. Since then, the combined teams have sourced thousands of parts, transformed GM’s advanced electronics facility in Kokomo for medical device production, contracted with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide 30,000 ventilators by the end of August and launched mass production. More than 1,000 men and women from the Kokomo community will be building ventilators.

“The passion and commitment that people at GM, Ventec and our suppliers have put into this work is inspiring, and 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 Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said in a statement.

Ventec CEO Chris Kiple said patients “deserve access to the best technology” to keep them in the fight as their bodies combat the virus.

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“Critical care ventilators deliver precise airflow to protect the lungs, include accurate monitors to assess patient well-being, and most importantly, they include advanced controls that help respiratory therapists and physicians wean patients off ventilators as fast as possible,” Kiple said.

Weiss Memorial Hospital CEO Mary Shehan called the ventilators a “much-needed infusion of critical resources” to help the hospital care for patients, which she said includes a “significant” elderly population.

“We are extremely grateful for the support and to all those who are rallying to ensure that our frontline caregivers have the necessary supplies to care for our patients,” Shehan said. “We need all the help we can get now to rise to this unprecedented challenge.”

Allan Spooner, president and CEO of Franciscan Health Olympia Fields, said the ventilators will “make a difference” in the lives of not only critical COVID-19 patients, but  other patients with acute respiratory illness.

“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,” Spooner said. “We are grateful and inspired by the ingenuity and dedication of everyone behind this truly lifesaving gift.”