Baxter (NYSE:BAX) told investors today that it is looking to hire 2,000 permanent and temporary workers — including 800 in the U.S. — to produce more supplies needed to treat coronavirus patients.
In a document related to its upcoming annual meeting, scheduled for May 5, 2020, the company said increased demand for its products spurred the hiring decision. Baxter said last week that it had already begun work to address shortages of kidney dialysis machines and infusion pumps and supplies needed by critically ill patients.
Baxter spokeswoman Lauren Russ told MassDevice in an email today that the company is “hiring for a mix of roles that will help address the increased demand for our products across Baxter’s portfolio.”
The Deerfield, Ill.-based company is seeing increased demand for continuous renal replacement therapy machines, fluids and filter sets for critically ill COVID-19 patients who need round-the-clock dialysis in a few areas. Demand has also spiked for Baxter’s Mini-Bag Plus drug delivery system, Spectrum IQ infusion system and administration sets, IV solutions and some sterile injectables, especially those used in the ICU.
“All Baxter facilities manufacturing these products are running at maximum levels to increase supply as much as possible,” Russ said. “We are really doing everything we can to support hospitals and increase access to the devices and medicines that are in high demand.”
In its statement to shareholders, Baxter also said it is channeling life-saving products where they are needed the most, based on public health reports. While current customers will continue to have access to products, the company said it will dedicate additional inventory to hospitals around the world with the greatest COVID-19 patient care needs and will update those allocations regularly to reflect the dynamic situation.
Baxter also said it has begun shipping more devices and products needed by COVID-19 patients more frequently between the U.S. and Europe. And the company said it is “aggressively” monitoring the availability of and buying incremental raw materials and components.
The company also said it has strengthened worker safety efforts, including infection control measures, limiting work group contact, adding symptom screening and personal protective equipment. It also added a “pandemic incentive” to front-line workers’ pay and offered time off to medically trained personnel to volunteer in their communities.
“Our medically essential products put us on the front lines of this pandemic, and our 50,000 colleagues are rising to the challenge to make a meaningful difference for patients,” said Baxter CEO José Almeida in a separate news release. “Given that demand is at extraordinary levels, it is critical that we prioritize getting our products where they are most needed — hospitals that are being overwhelmed by an influx of patients who are critically ill from COVID-19.”
In March, Baxter posted losses of -$19 million, or -5¢ per share, on sales of $3.04 billion for the three months ended Dec. 31, 2019, dipping below zero on its bottom line after profits of $311 million in this quarter last year, despite sales growth of 7.3%.
The company plans to post Q1 2020 earnings on April 30, when it may offer an update on 2020 earnings guidance.
Baxter employs approximately 50,000 worldwide, with manufacturing in more than 20 countries and sales in 100 countries. Shares in BAX were trading down 3.7% at $19.66 in noontime trading today.
This article has been updated with additional information from Baxter.