Medtronic to double number of staff making ventilators in Ireland

Galway plant central to building life-saving machines for Covid19 outbreak

One of the world’s biggest makers of life-saving ventilators is more than doubling its 250-strong workforce at its Galway manufacturing facility to meet surging demand in the coronavirus pandemic.

Ventilators are considered critical in the fight against the Covid-19 disease as they permit an infected person’s lungs to rest while the machine supplies oxygen and stimulates breathing.

There is a shortage of intensive care unit ventilators across the globe to deal with the expected surge in patients who become critically ill and need oxygen and breathing assistance to survive.

Medtronic, the Dublin-based medical devices multinational, hopes to more than double the manufacturing of ventilators by adding to its Galway workforce, including by transferring staff from other Medtronic sites to support the "ramp-up activities," the company said.


The publicly quoted company has already increased production on the manufacturing of ventilators by more than 40 per cent and said this week that it is on track to more than double its capacity to manufacture and supply ventilators in the response to the outbreak.

The company has added manufacturing shifts and is introducing new “shift patterns” to make the Galway plant a “24/7 operation”, the company said in a statement to the stock exchange.

The medical devices have proved critical in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak in the countries worst hit by the global crisis with one Italian doctor Dr Daniele Macchini working in a hospital in Bergamo in northern Italy saying: “Every ventilator becomes like gold.”

The Health Service Executive has ordered 900 new ventilators to add to more than 500 ventilators already available in HSE-funded hospitals and more than 900 pieces of equipment or machines that provide respiratory support.

“We are continuing to work with suppliers to procure and ensure adequate supply in a challenging market,” said a spokeswoman for the HSE.

Medtronic makes two of its high-performance ventilators - the Puritan Bennett 980 and Puritan Bennett 840 ventilators - in Galway. They are designed for critically ill patients such as those who suffer the worst effects of the Covid19 disease with acute respiratory distress.

The medical technology company told investors in a release to the US stock exchange this week that it had identified additional opportunities to increase its capacity to manufacture ventilators as the company works to meet the increased global demand for ventilators.

“Medtronic is prioritising high risk/high needs areas for ventilators allocation on a weekly basis for global distribution through its supply chain,” the company said.

“Covid19 is a dynamic global issue, and Medtronic will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates to its employees, customers and investors as the situation warrants.”

Bob White, an executive vice-president at the company, told the stock market that the company recognised that "the demand for ventilators in this environment has far outstripped supply", adding that Medtronic will prioritise who high-risk and high-need areas for distribution through its supply chain in terms of access to its increased production.

“No single company will be able to fill the current demands of global healthcare systems,” he said.

“However, with all manufacturers increasing their production and through partnerships with governments, hospitals and global health organisations, Medtronic is committed to getting more ventilators into the market and to the right locations in the world to help doctors and patients dealing with Covid19.”

Minister for Health Simon Harris has said the Government is engaging with the IDA and the HSE in discussions with the companies that manufacture ventilators to ensure an adequate supply for hospitals. "We need them and we need them to make them available," he told RTÉ.

A spokeswoman for the HSE said: “We are continuing to work with suppliers to procure and ensure adequate supply in a challenging market.”

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times

Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business