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CEO Of Ventilator-Making Company Says He Can Ramp Production Fivefold


Today President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act, a law that gives the president wartime-like powers to boost production of critical medical supplies. Trump said the effort is already underway.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We are ordering thousands and thousands of ventilators, and they're complex, you know? These are complex machines. And - but we're ordering them.

KELLY: Thousands and thousands of ventilators - well, our next guest speaks for Ventec Life Systems. That's a ventilator company outside Seattle. Chief Executive Chris Kiple says his company could help meet that demand.

Chris Kiple, welcome.

CHRIS KIPLE: Thanks for having me.

KELLY: I gather your phone is ringing off the hook. Are you actually - have you been specifically asked to ramp up production?

KIPLE: We have. It's been a very busy time, both for us and many ventilator manufacturers across the world. I think everyone feels a responsibility and moral obligation to meet the needs of patients and medical professionals across the world. And we're all increasing production as fast as we can.

KELLY: So what is the lag time for production? If the government put in a huge order tomorrow, when would those ventilators actually be ready?

KIPLE: I can't speak for all manufacturers, but we're all working together to rapidly increase our suppliers.

KELLY: What about for you? What would that look like?

KIPLE: We're in the process now of ramping up production fivefold in the next 90 days. And we're working with a number of great partners across the United States and across our community to increase production many times more than that over the coming four and five months.

KELLY: And put a number on that for me - fivefold in the next 90 days, you would be able to ideally produce how many ventilators?

KIPLE: We've been constantly growing. We've been producing hundreds of ventilators per month. We're going to be growing into the thousands of ventilators per month. And if the need arises for tens of thousands of ventilators a month, we'll rally the resources of the United States to make that happen.

KELLY: What about the challenge of getting parts? I understand there are a lot of complicated parts. They come from all over the world. How does that work in a moment when global manufacturing has been slowed or halted in a lot of places?

KIPLE: We have suppliers around the world. Many of them are in the United States. We maintain constant communication with our suppliers. As of now, we have got confidence that our suppliers are ramping up production along with us. Everyone understands the need for more ventilators. We understand this is the best solution to save lives in the absence of a vaccine. And we feel really fortunate to work with the teams that we do and share the common mission that we have.

KELLY: So what's the biggest challenge for you as you ramp up?

KIPLE: It's not one individual challenge. It's the multitude of challenges. I can tell you that our team is really rising to the occasion. We're working long days, and everyone is excited to fill this responsibility.

KELLY: The other question is people. You can - if you can get the parts, great. If you can ramp up production, great. But ventilators require trained people to operate them. Is staffing an issue, whatever number of ventilators you and other manufacturers can ramp up to produce?

KIPLE: We (inaudible) life support device, so quality is the No. 1 most important thing. We have a complex system. We have a really talented team. We are scaling that team we're lucky to do our production in the Seattle area. There's a lot of great people in the Seattle area with a very talented workforce here. And we can leverage those skills to make that happen.

KELLY: But just to make sure my question was clear, you can make all the ventilators you want, but you still need somebody to operate them. Do you know if that's going to be an issue at hospitals all over?

KIPLE: Absolutely. You know, everyone's talking about ventilators, but it's not just a ventilator. It's all the other equipment that you typically need - oxygen, cough suction (ph), nebulizer. It's the training resources. It's the people that do it. Our device is a unique solution in that it was originally designed to work from the hospital to the home. Being able - designed by mom and dad to work for kids, in essence, makes it much easier...

KELLY: Right.

KIPLE: ...To use for surge capacity.

KELLY: So challenges ahead there - all right, that's Chris Kiple, chief executive of Ventec Life Systems in Washington state. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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