European countries now deep in the throes of the corinavirus, Covid-19, are racing to increase production of ventilators that, for patients in intensive care, can mean the difference between life and death. Meanwhile, what is Ottawa doing to take advantage of their experience now, when we still have a little more time?
Demand is so great in Italy for pulmonary ventilators that the government has called in the military to help a local manufacturer ramp up production of the devices, which can mean the difference between life and death for the country’s thousands of COVID-19 patients.
Italy has the most pressing need for ventilators. By Wednesday evening, the country had recorded another shocking rise in positive COVID-19 tests. The total number of cases rose by 4,207 to 35,713; fatalities climbed by 475 to 2,978. If the pace continues, Italy will have half as many cases as China before the weekend.
About 30 military technicians started work this week at Siare Engineering International Group, a private electromedical supply company whose factory is near Bologna, in the hard-hit north-central part of the country. Italy is the European epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, and Siare’s short-term goal is to double production to 500 ventilators a month – higher if possible.
“All of a sudden, we found ourselves facing an operation of titanic proportions,” wrote Gianluca Preziosa, the company’s founder and president, on Facebook late last week.I've heard lots of excuses in defence of our prime minister's failure to act. Oh, we don't have a manufacturing capability left. That all went to Asia. Bollocks, there are plenty of industries that can be harnessed into ventilator production. Oh, the prime minister can't lead the people where they don't want to go. Nonsense. It's a pandemic. We're going to be compelled to do a lot of things we would rather not do. It's an emergency. That's when leaders are supposed to show leadership. Leadership from the front, not the rear. A real leader understands the distinction between duty and popularity.
Siare is the only Italian maker of ventilators and one of just four in Europe. Each is suddenly working flat out to meet demand.
Germany has put in an order for 10,000 ventilators to supplement the 25,000 already available. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has asked companies such as automakers to retool their assembly lines to make ventilators and other emergency medical devices as the pandemic sweeps across Europe, putting hundreds of millions of people into lockdown and overwhelming hospital emergency wards.
That's the leadership that's so badly needed now. I commend this prime minister for providing financial aid to those in need. He is to be commended for sealing our border with the US to all but essential goods and commodities. But now he needs to lead the fight for Canadian lives. You can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.