There is a lot of chatter about ventilators these days. Ventilators are the machines that help people with advanced respiratory infections breathe. It just so happens that a lot more people need them now than needed them a few months or even a few weeks ago, as the COVID-19 virus clobbering countries around the world goes after people’s lungs to a harsh degree.
On March 21, Tesla CEO Elon Musk told CleanTechnica that they would deliver 1,000 ventilators within a week. Last week, he announced he had purchased 1,245 ventilators from China, machines which had been approved by the FDA for use in medical situations. He donated 1,000 of them to hospitals in Los Angeles and sent the rest to New York, where the coronavirus caseload is exploding. Those ventilators have now arrived in LA and New York City, where health officials have expressed their appreciation on Twitter.
Special thanks to @Tesla for a donation of 40 ventilators to our team at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst #inQueens. These will be essential in the fight against the #coronavirus. pic.twitter.com/X3EwUxGFMl
— NYC Health + Hospitals (@NYCHealthSystem) March 31, 2020
There has been a lot of drama about ventilators in the past 10 days, with the alleged president of the United States all but calling General Motors war profiteers and chiding the company for not moving fast enough to get production of ventilators started already. After all, they have had almost 10 days to round up parts from their global network of suppliers. What on Earth could they possibly be waiting for?
Musk Steps Up Again
Today, March 31, Elon took to Twitter again to make a rather startling announcement.
We have extra FDA-approved ventilators. Will ship to hospitals worldwide within Tesla delivery regions. Device & shipping cost are free. Only requirement is that the vents are needed immediately for patients, not stored in a warehouse. Please me or @Tesla know.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 31, 2020
Now you know everything we know. What we don’t know is how many ventilators Musk has available or where he got them from. We also don’t know any more about his proposed working relationship with Medtronic, a major manufacturer of ventilators. Are these more units he found sitting around in a warehouse somewhere? It seems rather unlikely that new ones have been manufactured so quickly, but we just don’t know.
The part about not putting them in storage is interesting. Some hospitals are legitimately expecting the number of infections to skyrocket in the weeks to come and are desperate to have adequate supplies of gloves, masks, and respirators on hand before that happens. Others may be hoarding them. It’s really hard to know who is acting reasonably and who is acting out of pure selfishness and greed.
What we do know is that Musk and Tesla are committed to getting ventilators to the people who need them most, right now, today. It would be enormously helpful if the so-called Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) could coordinate the supply of critically needed medical equipment instead of forcing the individual states to compete against each other for scarce supplies.
But that would require leadership from the top, something the person in authority is incapable of providing. Perhaps he should try behaving more like an actual business leader instead of merely playing one on TV.