Thirteen years ago, 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.
Money was budgeted. A federal contract was signed. Work got underway.
The ventilators were to cost less than $3,000 each. The lower the price, the more machines the government would be able to buy.
And then things suddenly veered off course. Covidien, a multibillion-dollar maker of medical devices, bought out Newport Medical Instruments, the small California company that had been hired to design the new machines.
Covidien, a multi-billion-dollar company which already made the higher-priced traditional ventilators as part of a large portfolio of devices, initially asked the government for more money under the ventilator contract, then asked to be let out of the obligation altogether.
The project ultimately produced zero ventilators.
Read more: The U.S. Tried to Build a New Fleet of Ventilators. The Mission Failed. The New York Times