time crunch
April 4, 2020

Ford and General Motors, two longstanding titans of the American automobile industry, are working rapidly around the clock to produce potentially life-saving ventilators for patients suffering from the novel COVID-19 coronavirus, but there are two major issues that could render their attempts ineffective in the end, The Washington Post reports.

First, they may simply not have enough time. The companies are working fast, but they may not have started early enough. So, by the time they produce the necessary amount of ventilators, many places around the U.S. may have already experienced the peak of the pandemic, which is expected to come sometime in April. "Even though we are moving mountains ... and we are moving as fast as we can," said an auto executive involved with the process, "these herculean efforts might not be enough."

For example, the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates the U.S. will need 32,000 ventilators by mid-April. Ford is aiming to get 1,500 out by the end of April, and GM thinks it will produce 10,000 per month by mid-May, meaning both companies would still fall short at the time of expected peak.

The other issue is that it's unclear if the ventilators will be sufficient. Intensive care specialists and ventilator experts told the Post that Ford's product is more geared toward ambulance and hospital transports than the ventilators they rely on in hospital to keep patients breathing for weeks. Dr. Matthew Aldrich, the medical director of critical care at the University of California at San Francisco, said his hospital normally vets their ventilators before making a purchase, and he hopes the same thing is being done to make sure Ford's and GM's are up to the task.

Still, Dr. Jeff Hirsch, the chief medical officer for GE health care, said even simplified ventilators have "the potential to be lifesaving." Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

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