January 17, 2021

Commentary: Just a thought

Ask Electric Boat to make ventilators, masks to help with pandemic


I would like to offer a suggestion to Governor Raimondo regarding the critical need for medical equipment like ventilators, masks, safety equipment, etc., that are sorely needed by health workers and hospitals as they deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. The worldwide shortage of this medical equipment is a direct cause for so many ill people and fatalities. Governors across the country have described an archaic process of outbidding each other and the federal government for this equipment. Not only are prices being driven up like an auction, but availability is scarce.

Maybe Rhode Island has a partial solution. Like Ford and General Motors, our own Electric Boat (EB) facility seems to be more than able to manufacture the ventilators and masks that RI and others desperately need. Why not ask EB to help by manufacturing these items for RI? The unique construction technologies that maximize EB’s workforce's multifaceted skills would be a good fit for this need. EB is known worldwide for their quality work over a wide range of industrial projects. EB’s precision processes are driven by digital design data transmitted electronically by skilled workers.

A company called Medtronic has offered “to do whatever we can to support overall efforts to fight this virus.” Medtronic will make available the design, plans, and specs for a ventilator to manufacture. This spec will let others access the information needed to develop more ventilators able to be used in hospitals and home settings. A Medtronic press release stated: “Medtronic, the global leader in medical technology, today (March 30, 2020) announced it is publicly sharing the design specifications for the Puritan Bennett™ 560 (PB 560) to enable participants across industries to evaluate options for rapid ventilator manufacturing to help doctors and patients dealing with COVID-19. This decision is consistent with the recent FDA Guidance and in accordance with the public health and medical response of governmental agencies globally. Medtronic recognizes the acute need for ventilators as life-saving devices in the management of COVID-19 infections. We know this global crisis needs a global response. Over the past few weeks, we have ramped up production of our Puritan Bennett™ 980 ventilators,” said the press release.

The Quonset Point facility is widely recognized for its manufacturing, outfitting, and modular-construction capabilities and has developed a reputation as the crown jewel of the U.S. submarine industrial base. Why not ask Electric Boat to look at the Medtronic ventilator specs and see if they can develop a process to build these units.

Of course, the medical profession would have to be part of approving this process but what do we have to lose by asking? This subject is certainly above my intellect level and as a local city councilman I am not high on the totem pole of importance. However, after reading about Medtronic and speaking with a retired EB engineer from the Groton plant, I think it’s worth the Governor looking into this.

(Editor's Note: Bob Rodericks' commentary is his own opinion and not necessarily that of the publisher or this News Mag.)


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