Jun 17, 2020

A mission as a blueprint

In times of disbelief, that’s when beliefs matter most.

As 2019 came to a close and a new decade commenced, January’s Lunar New Year celebrations across China came to a screeching halt. The novel coronavirus had taken hold. By late March, COVID-19 had infected more than 786,0001 people globally, and a headline became every conversation the world over. Shortages of protective medical gear, hospital beds, staff, and answers left little room for a plan, leaving doctors and nurses working bed to bed, moment to moment.

I knew [coronavirus] would come to our door.

- Philomena Flaherty, Medtronic assembly line worker, Galway, Ireland

Supply, demand, and the coronavirus
As hospitals became flooded with critically ill patients, it quickly became clear that the global supply of ventilators would likely not meet the time-sensitive demand. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo estimated a need for 30,000 in his state alone.2 So we started by increasing production. Our Ireland facility doubled capacity and introduced 24/7 operations. We fortified our supply chain, brought in new partners, and trained new employees. But it wouldn’t be enough. The world needed something more sustainable.

Team of healthcare workers stand next to patient beds in a COVID-19 unit.

Getting there
Devastated by the coronavirus, Italy is the first European country to impose a national quarantine. In a matter of weeks, hospitals are running out of beds and equipment. A team of Medtronic employees helps build a temporary hospital in Milan, then trains new staff on how to use our ventilators. Within 15 days from the start of construction, the first patients are admitted.

Everything we make and everything we do works to alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life. We provide health, and we provide hope. People are depending on us, and we cannot let them down. We must continue to innovate and fulfill our Mission.

- Geoff Martha, Chief Executive Officer, Medtronic


Hear Geoff talk more about our response

Geoff Martha

Back to our roots

Unsure of what lay ahead, we started with our one constant — our Mission to alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life — as our guide. It was time to put our purpose into action. We virtually gathered our global leaders, biomedical engineers, and scientists to devise a plan.

How could we best help patients? Send ventilators to the places where they were needed the most — first China, later Europe, and then the United States. How could we support innovation? Reposition our invention submission program to focus on virus-fighting technology. How could we expand access to respiratory support for patients? Partner with academic institutions and others to design a light ventilator. How could we do it all faster? Work with the FDA to authorize emergency use of our compact ventilator for use in the United States.

Yet there was more we could do. More patients, more willing hands, more of everything but time. We met two hard truths. One: A single company can’t do it all. Two: While the challenge spanned the globe, some were better prepared to face it than others. Things differed between factories (let alone countries) because our industry, our world, wasn’t built for this. The only way through was to start from the drafting table.

It took 10 years for the U.S. economy to create 23 million new jobs. It took the coronavirus just a month to destroy almost as many.

- Marketwatch
Times Square with no pedestrians

A world in disbelief
The Eiffel Tower stands watch as Paris goes quiet. Times Square’s bright lights shine over empty New York City streets. Hospitals overflow while the rest of the world pauses. Corner store to Apple store, only the essential remain open. Parents are homeschooling, teachers are making masks, and healthcare workers take the metro another day. Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain tests positive for COVID-19, the market crashes, and vaccines are still a year away. The world continues the only way it can — one day at a time.

The right time to do the right thing
On March 30, we began publicly sharing design specifications for our portable, compact ventilator allowing others around the world to join the fight. This move helped major manufacturers reevaluate how they operated to support the effort. In the first week, more than 90,000 had registered for the blueprint.

I don’t think people can really, fully appreciate the extraordinary effort of these people.

– Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, describing the heroics of healthcare workers on the front lines of the outbreak3

A world united
In a matter of weeks, competitors had become collaborators working on behalf of patients everywhere.

World map
  • Baylis Medical Company, Inc. (Ontario, Canada): Baylis Medical ramped up production of its ventilators, which are based on the specifications that Medtronic released to the public.
  • Foxconn Technology Group (Taiwan): The world’s largest contract assembler of electronics (including iPhones™ and iPads™) plans to produce 10,000 Medtronic ventilators over the next year. If needed, the company says it can increase production capabilities to more than double its current commitment.
  • Vingroup Joint Stock Company (Hanoi, Vietnam): Vinfast (auto) and Vinsmart (tech) partnered with Medtronic to produce low-cost ventilators designed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Intel (Santa Clara, CA): Intel worked to refresh the design of a Medtronic ventilator to help with sourcing components; the company also helped accelerate the remote management capabilities of the Medtronic acute care ventilator to reduce healthcare worker exposure.
  • Ventilator Training Alliance: An industry-wide effort launched, led by Medtronic, to provide professionals one location for training across all ventilator models. Dräger, GE Healthcare, Getinge, Hamilton, Philips, and Vyaire Medical joined.
  • SpaceX (Palo Alto, CA): Space Exploration Corporation (SpaceX) reopened its New York production facility to manufacture medical devices instead of solar panels to support Medtronic ventilator production.
A woman gives man a bag of supplies wearing masks and gloves

We stand together
As a world, we adapt and overcome. Without a word or call for thanks, people stand behind those who need them most. Doctors and nurses receive masks made from extra yards of fabric. Delivery drivers find care packages at the door. Family and friends reunite through windows. And communities rally around hometown heroes. Day-by-day, the fight continues. People continue.

We cannot return to life before the pandemic. Our everyday lives will be different.

– Angela Merkel, German Chancellor 4

Another day, another opportunity to act

We work for, and will always stand for, the betterment of all. As we continue through unprecedented times, Medtronic will continue to take Mission-driven action. We will keep sharing our knowledge, find new ways to help healthcare providers and patients, and support the communities that keep us going. All that we do, we do for human welfare — for humankind.

1 Worldometers. COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/. May 18,2020. Accessed May 18, 2020.
2 Bloomberg. E. Rembert. Cuomo Opposes Trump’s Proposal for Quarantine of NYC Area. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-28/cuomo-says-new-york-needs-30-000-ventilators-at-state-s-apex. March 28, 2020. Accessed May 18, 2020.
3 Newcomb A. Today. Dr. Fauci honors medical workers, calls on Americans to applaud these "brave warriors." https://www.today.com/news/dr-anthony-fauci-honors-medical-workers-frontlines-t177622. April 4, 2020. Accessed May 18, 2020.
4 Suliman A. and Eckardt A. NBC News. Germany's Merkel cautions this is "beginning" of coronavirus pandemic. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/germany-s-merkel-cautions-beginning-coronavirus-pandemic-n1190241. April 23, 2020. Accessed May 18, 2020.

Apple, iPhone, iPad, and the Apple logo are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc.