ventilator Ventec Life Systems sidner pkg
This startup is racing to produce ventilators
03:36 - Source: CNN Business
CNN  — 

The Trump administration was in talks with General Motors and Ventec Life Systems to announce a joint agreement to produce thousands of desperately needed ventilators as the coronavirus pandemic spreads throughout the United States, but that announcement has been put on hold as the terms of the deal are currently being reassessed, a person close to the negotiations told CNN.

The talks hit a snag this week when administration officials questioned the price tag and timeline. According to one person close to the talks, the deal is being reevaluated. While talks have not been called off, administration officials are weighing how long it would take to produce the thousands of ventilators and whether it would be worth the substantial cost to make the ventilators, given they may not be delivered for some time when the need might be different.

Amid the negotiations, President Donald Trump attacked General Motors in a series of tweets Friday saying “as usual with ‘this’ General Motors, things just never seem to work out. They said they were going to give us 40,000 much needed ventilators, ‘very quickly’. Now they are saying it will only be 6000, in late April, and they want top dollar. Always a mess with Mary B. Invoke ‘P’.” Trump clarified in a later tweet that he was referring to the Defense Production Act.

One issue at hand is that GM doesn’t currently make ventilators. The plant in Kokomo, Indiana, where GM has considered making these ventilators usually assembles electronics. As the talks have gone on, GM has requested the federal government foot the costs to retool the factories that would make the ventilators. According to a source familiar, GM is continuing to prepare its facilities and both General Motors and Ventec are working on the assumption that the government deal will happen but understand that even if it does not, there is a need and a market for ventilators.

GM confirmed that in a statement Thursday night. A spokesman told CNN, “Ventec and GM team is working around the clock to meet the urgent need for more ventilators. Efforts to set up manufacturing capacity at the GM Kokomo facility are already underway to produce Ventec’s critical care ventilator. GM has begun the process of hiring the workforce.”

The statement continued: “Through a herculean effort by both company’s global supply bases, all parts have been sourced. Plans are in place to begin shipping parts to the Kokomo facility to start production on the VOCSN ventilator within weeks.”

The announcement pullback was first reported by The New York Times. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ventec has also been working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the White House to determine the total number of ventilators needed. A source familiar with the conversations said Ventec would need $200 to $300 million dollars to ramp up production.

Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has played a leading role in the ongoing talks, and the administration is also exploring other proposals to obtain more ventilators.

But as his top aides are in ongoing talks about how to procure more ventilators, Trump is downplaying the need for them.

“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators,” Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity Thursday night, after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his state needed around 30,000 ventilators.

“You go into major hospitals sometimes, and they’ll have two ventilators,” Trump said. “And now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?”

Cuomo appeared to respond Trump’s comments on Friday, saying “everyone is entitled to an opinion” when asked about pushback on his projection that New York needs 30,000 more ventilators.

Cuomo said he will “make the decisions based on the data and the science” and “the numbers say you may need 30,000” additional ventilators.

CNN’s Peter Valdes-Dapena contributed to this report.