Posted by Jack, with highlighted commentary inserted by Jack
New York Times 3/29/20 – Thirteen years ago during the George W. Bush presidency, a group of U.S. public health officials came up with a plan to address what they regarded as one of the medical system’s crucial vulnerabilities: a shortage of ventilators.
The breathing-assistance machines tended to be bulky, expensive and limited in number. The plan was to build a large fleet of inexpensive portable devices to deploy in a flu pandemic or another crisis.
Money was budgeted. A federal contract was signed. Work got underway, sort of, and then things suddenly veered off course when the Obama Administration moved into the White House. A multibillion-dollar maker of medical devices bought the small California company that had been hired to design the new machines. The project ultimately produced zero ventilators. The transitioning oversight or rather the lack thereof, allowed this project to slip through the cracks.
That critical failure delayed the development of an affordable ventilator by at least half a decade, depriving hospitals, states and the federal government of the ability to stock up. The federal government started over with another company in 2014, whose ventilator was approved only last year (during the Trump Administration) and whose products have not yet been delivered.
“The stalled efforts to create a new class of cheap, easy-to-use ventilators highlight the perils of outsourcing projects with critical public-health implications to private companies without diligent follow up; their focus on maximizing profits is not always consistent with the government’s goal of preparing for a future crisis.