More than $550 million is on its way to a Reno company to help the U.S. government boost its stockpile of ventilators during the COVID-19 virus pandemic.
On Friday, Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., announced Hamilton Medical Corp. would receive a $551 million contract as part of a national effort to boost the stockpile by about 100,000 machines in the coming 100 days.
“Nobody should be saying mission accomplished while we’re still living in the midst of this challenge,” Amodei said. “However, this is an important piece in making sure our healthcare professionals have access to some of the most essential lifesaving tools needed in this fight. It is my understanding that production at the new Reno factory will begin before the end of the month.”
The money comes in the form of a five-month, firm fixed price contract that began March 31, according to Amodei.
“Hamilton is a Swiss-based ventilator production company with existing offices in Reno, who has, as a result of the HHS contract, established its first U.S. factory here in Reno,” Amodei said.
The money comes from the Division of Strategic National Stockpile of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the announcement stated.
Hamilton is a company with Reno roots dating back decades.
The division that makes ventilators is primarily based in Switzerland and has a Reno distribution center. There’s also a related Hamilton company that specializes in robotics and is involved with COVID-19 and other medical testing.
The announcement from Amodei, however, said the recent contract would allow Hamilton to bring ventilator manufacturing to Northern Nevada. An announcement on the Hamilton website says the company is seeking to fill hundreds of manufacturing and warehousing positions.
A representative of Hamilton didn’t respond to an interview request Friday afternoon.
But in a March 24 interview with the Reno Gazette Journal and USA TODAY Network, Reno-based CEO Bob Hamilton said the company was working intensely to ramp up production.
Hamilton said ventilators can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $6,000 up to $45,000 and that COVID-19 patients who need invasive ventilation need machines on the upper end of the scale.
“You definitely need ventilators with a lot of capability and driving power to be able to ventilate these patients, or at least the sickest of these patients,” Hamilton said.
He also praised efforts by automakers and other firms that have offered to help with production, but said making machines that meet standards for medical safety and effectiveness requires specific expertise.
“This is not just like assembling a coffee maker,” he said.
Hamilton also said that despite a drastic increase in demand, the company isn’t increasing prices for its products.
While the company is ready to make more machines, Hamilton said ventilators aren’t a solution to the broader challenge of slowing down the pandemic so health care systems can keep pace.
“I think a lot of this has to do with how effective people are in social distancing and quarantining those who may be sick and really just stopping the spread of this virus,” he said.
Benjamin Spillman covers the outdoors and environment in Northern Nevada, from backcountry skiing in the Sierra to the latest from Lake Tahoe’s ecosystem. Support his work by subscribing to RGJ.com right here.
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