A plan for General Motors to build much-needed medical equipment were almost scuppered at the last minute, with the US government baulking at the billion-dollar bill from one of America’s biggest carmakers to build ventilators for COVID-19 patients.
Despite GM going public last week with its plans to partner with medical equipment maker Ventec to build 80,000 ventilators by offering its factories and workers, President Donald Trump – who only a day earlier had praised companies including GM for stepping up to build health equipment - accused the carmaker of “wasting time” and trying to “rip off” the government, after projections that the program could cost up to US$1.5 billion.
Trump (above at a conference on Friday) also scoffed at the notion that the United States – now the world’s COVID-19 hot spot with more than 100,000 confirmed cases – needed so many ventilators, which are used to improve the oxygen flow to moderately ill patients to keep them from requiring more invasive machinery.
General Motors MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant, and START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!!!!!! FORD, GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!!!!!! @GeneralMotors @Ford— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 27, 2020
A US Conference of Mayors last week was told that the country would need more than 50 million face masks and gowns, 7.9 million test kits and 139,000 ventilators to ride out the virus attack.
There are already stories of US hospitals who are attempting to use a single ventilator for multiple patients, while protective gear for health workers and testing kits are in chronically short supply.
But in a stunning backflip just 20 hours later, Trump then commanded GM to continue on with the project by enacting the Defense Production Act, declaring that 100,000 ventilators would be built “in 100 days”.… even though GM had already committed to the project.
GM's Flint plant lies idle
A GM spokesperson said that the project, known as Project V, was moving quickly, with the company looking at converting a transmission plant in Indiana to build the ventilators, which could cost a projected $US18,000 each.
The US car industry is at a standstill in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.