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Reno-based ventilator company increases production

RENO – A Reno-based ventilator company has increased production of the critical medical devices by 50 percent in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, expanding production hours to build more than 300 of the machines a week.

Hamilton Medical, a family-owned business begun in 1983 with manufacturing facilities in Switzerland, already has delivered “hundreds of ventilators to the countries most affected,” according to a FAQ the company posted on its website. The company aims to double production by the end of April and produce more than 20,000 ventilators this year.

“Due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus, the demands on you are growing exponentially,” CEO Bob Hamilton wrote in a message to customers on the company website. “Thank you for your commitment and acts of heroism in caring for patients in this battle against the coronavirus. Our thoughts are with you and we are doing everything possible to support you globally in intensive care.”

In a statement he provided via a company spokeswoman, he added: “We are aware of the responsibility that has fallen upon us and we will do everything humanly possible to provide as many ventilators as possible to help save as many lives as possible.”

Ventilators are used to help the most critically ill COVID-19 patients breathe. They cost upward of $25,000 each, and twice that for the most advanced machines. A report this week from the Society of Critical Care Medicine estimated that 62,000 full-featured machines are operating in U.S. hospitals with nearly 100,000 lesser or older models also on hand.

But U.S. demand stemming from COVID-19 infection could approach 1 million patients who would need the machines to breathe, according to the society’s findings.

Hamilton typically produces 220 machines a week. It takes about 45 minutes to assemble one ventilator, followed by run-in and quality testing, the company said in response to emailed questions.

Besides medical device manufacturers ramping up production, automakers and parts suppliers have offered to retool their factories to produce ventilators but face potential difficulties, such as the need for sterile manufacturing environments. Training technicians and validating facilities also takes months.

Hamilton Medical said its supply chain is “secured, but it is possible that we may face shortages as we further ramp up production.” It has not changed its prices.

“We denounce any opportunistic utilization of this humanitarian crisis, including a raise in prices,” it stated.

Delivery times for new machines are affected, and the company is working to keep machines already in service fully operational. Ventilator production is at the company’s manufacturing facility in Switzerland. The company has 500 employees worldwide and about 100 in the U.S.

“Our primary goal is to make sure all our ventilators that are already supporting patients can be used continuously,” the company stated. “Our secondary goal is to provide ventilators to the areas that need them the most.”

Contact Bill Dentzer at bdentzer@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DentzerNews on Twitter.

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