Medtronic (NYSE:MDT) CEO Omar Ishrak said yesterday that the medtech giant is partnering with Foxconn Technology Group to manufacture ventilators at Taiwan-based Foxconn’s plant in Wisconsin to treat the sickest COVID-19 patients.
In an interview with CNBC, Ishrak said he didn’t know how many ventilators the deal will produce, but said production will begin in the next 6 weeks. “We’re doing everything we can, working 24-7 with Foxconn to bring this up to their factory in Wisconsin,” he added.
The ventilators coming from the Foxconn plant in Mount Pleasant, Wis., will be in addition to the 1,000 ventilators per week Medtronic will be producing by the end of June, Ishrak noted. That’s an increase from 300 per week it manufactured in January. Ishrak said he expects the company will be be manufacturing 400 ventilators per week by the end of April and 700 per week by the end of May.
Foxconn did not immediately respond to a request for more specifics.
Medtronic is also working with “major players” in Asia to expedite ventilator production, the CEO added. “This enables us to leverage capacity and expertise, engineering expertise of major players who’ve got complimentary supply chain to really improve and and further enhance our capability to make ventilators,” he said. “Partners are working closely with us, crossing company boundaries, crossing country boundaries.”
The company is directing ventilator sales according to its analysis of COVID-19 disease models and clinical needs, the medtech giant’s leader told the news network. “We’ve been working with FEMA on this,” Ishrak said. “We’re doing our very best to move these ventilators to places of the greatest need. Right now the need is in the United States.”
Medtronic is also offering the ventilators at a fixed price that is lower than the prevailing price it was charging before the pandemic, according to Ishrak. “It’s the same price that everybody pays,” he said.
Hospitals around the country reported shortages of ventilators and parts such as tubing in addition to personal protective equipment and IV poles in a survey of conditions taken by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Results of the survey, conducted from March 23-27, were published yesterday. One of this hospitals’ concerns was price gouging.
Medtronic last week publicly shared its design specifications for a small ventilator, the Puritan Bennett 560 (PB 560), and yesterday reported 70,000 downloads of the plans. Two Minnesota contract manufacturers, Nortech Systems and Minnetronix Medical, said they were studying those plans. Nortech’s CEO said his company would be able to start production as soon as it finds a distributor.
Ishrak was undaunted by questions about the efficacy of even its higher-end ventilators, such as the Puritan Bennett 980, to save patient lives. Several reports have said that a high percentage of those patients put on ventilators die of COVID-19 anyway.
Ishrak said. “Every single life matters. It matters to us, it matters to everyone. These products have been designed with a great deal of precision, with automatic controls, with a very specific algorithm to match the patient and it is our responsibility to do everything we can to save everything single life out there.”