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GM, Ventec near ventilator goal

Contract to manufacture 30,000 ventilators nears completion; Ventec to continue operations locally after the contract ends

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LEARNING — Ventec Life Systems Vice President Engineering Joe Cipollone explains its VOCSN critical care ventilator Friday, March 27, to General Motors employees who will be helping to produce the ventilators at the GM Kokomo manufacturing facility in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The joint effort between General Motors Kokomo and Ventec Life Systems is nearing completion of its 30,000 ventilator mask goal, officials said.

The contract, which allocated $489.4 million in government funds to GM and Ventec, is nearing its end goal and already has produced 20,000 ventilators. According to a press release from Ventec, officials expect to hit the build goal by the end of the month.

The contract was given to GM and Ventec by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in April under the Defense Production Act. By mid-April, the first shipment of ventilators was delivered to Franciscan Health Olympia Fields in Olympia Fields, Ill., and Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

GM and Ventec highlighted the continued need for ventilators, even after the end of the contract.

“During this pandemic, ventilators are a key resource in the public health safety net to ensure the right ventilator is available at the right time for COVID-19 patients in respiratory distress,” read the release. “The need for critical care ventilators continues beyond the HHS order, so after the completion of the HHS contract, GM will hand off operational control to Ventec to continue manufacturing operations in Kokomo, Indiana, along with continued expanded production at Ventec’s headquarters in Bothell, Washington. Ventec is working quickly to fulfill ongoing orders for VOCSN critical care ventilators in response to COVID-19.”

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GM and Ventec sought to hire 1,000 employees to work on manufacturing the ventilators, including hiring back the 180 workers who already held positions with GM in Kokomo. The project also brought in GM employees from Marion.

According to a statement from GM, the joint venture between the two companies began after StopTheSpread.org, which is made up of a coalition of CEOs, suggested American companies partner to help fight the spread of COVID-19.

“We are grateful for the partnership between GM and Ventec Life Systems, which will enable Ventec to drastically scale production of critically needed respiratory care products,” read a statement from StopTheSpread.org. “This is a vital step in delivering relief to our healthcare system, which is threatened by the spread of COVID-19. As this virus continues to endanger the lives of countless Americans, StopTheSpread.org is working to unite the business community around a common threat to our economy and our way of life. We know the strength of this effort relies on urgent coordination between the public and private sectors in order to get through this crisis.”

GM chairman and CEO Mary Barra praised the partnership between the two companies.

“We are proud to stand with other American companies and our skilled employees to meet the needs of this global pandemic,” Barra said. “This partnership has rallied the GM enterprise and our global supply base to support Ventec, and the teams are working together with incredible passion and commitment. I am proud of this partnership as we work together to address urgent and life-saving needs. GM is in the position to help build more ventilators because of the remarkable performance of GM and Ventec’s global supply base. Our joint teams have moved mountains to find real solutions to save lives and fight the pandemic.”

Once the contract has ended, GM will return its focus to manufacturing cars, and Ventec will continue to lease space in the factory on a month-to-month basis as determined by the need for ventilators.