Lynn workers offer solution to ventilator search

Laid-off GE employees could build machines, union says

AS THE CORONAVIRUS surge begins, it’s unclear how many more ventilators are coming from the federal stockpile, and when they will arrive.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency sent Massachusetts only 100 of the more than 1,000 ventilators requested, Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday. Baker said Wednesday he is exploring his own strategies to obtain ventilators for the state.

“It’s hard to believe we’re in a period where hospitals might have to make difficult decisions about how to distribute resources like ventilators, but that’s the worst-case scenario, and we must plan for it,” he said. The Department of Public Health has already asked health care facilities to identify any ventilators they have, and to ensure they’re in working order and ready to go for COVID-19 patients.

The solution to the ventilator problem might be closer than Washington. General Electric employees in Lynn on Wednesday called for increased production of ventilators out of the underused aviation manufacturing plant, and the rehiring of recently laid-off workers to do so. In other parts of the country, General Electric’s health care arm has doubled the number of ventilators produced.

If the company adequately cleaned up the Lynn plant and brought back laid-off employees, workers say, they could begin manufacturing much-needed ventilator equipment for hospitals across the country, while still producing the defense products ordered from the plant by the US military.

“Workers know what to do. We have empty buildings, we have communities you can put jobs and manufacturing back into, making a product that is heavily needed by society right now,” Adam Kaszynski, president of the local chapter of  IUE-CWA, told Rolling Stone.

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Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

General Electric hasn’t responded to media questions about the Lynn facility and converting aviation plants to manufacture ventilators. Instead, it has touted its partnership with Ford Motor Company in its health care facilities (outside of Massachusetts) to produce 50,000 ventilators in 100 days.

For the Bay State, ventilator production can’t come soon enough. Coronavirus, which has killed more than 350 residents, has not yet hit its peak, which experts project to be between April 10 and April 20.  The state’s congressional delegation is asking for an additional 1,600 ventilators, but hasn’t received a response from the Trump administration.