Philips has announced plans to increase production of critical care productions to help patients with coronavirus (COVID-19).
Portable ventilators are, according to Philips, the most needed medical product in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The ventilators can also later be used to treat people with a wide range of respiratory problems.
Philips plans to double the production of ventilators within the next 8 weeks, and to reach a four-fold increase by autumn 2020.
The production of several diagnostic imaging systems, such as X-ray and ultrasound, will also be increased, along with telehealth technologies. This will allow medical professional to contact patients at home, without the need for them to be physically present at the hospital or clinic.
WHO call to action
On 16 March 2020, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) called on governments to facilitate better access to critical healthcare products. This involves relaxing import and export tariffs and making exceptions to enable products to still be exported from countries in lockdown.
Frans van Houten, CEO of Philips, expresses his backing for this call to action. ‘There is an unprecedented global demand for medical equipment to help diagnoses and treat patients with COVID-19,’ he says. Van Houten calls on governments and health authorities globally ‘to help us in our endeavor to save lives by accelerating deliveries. We believe in fair allocation of scarce medical equipment to those that need it the most,’ he continues.
This increase in production means that Philips aims to hire additional employees to work in its manufacturing departments. In addition, more shifts are available as the company’s production lines are now operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Distribution outside America
Much of the increased production will take place in America. This is because the Philips factory in Best specializes in making equipment for the treatment of cancer and cardiovascular diseases, not respiratory diseases.
However, a spokesman for Philips, Steve Klink, indicates that this may pose a big concern as it is unclear whether the devices made in America can be supplied to European countries like the Netherlands.
President Trump highlights the Defense Production Act, a law from 1950 that seems to give him the right to keep the equipment within the USA. ‘We are concerned,’ Klink says. ‘We are seeing things that were unthinkable a few weeks ago. We are in talks with the USA and we hope we can work it out together,’ he continues.
Translator: Rachael Vickerman