GM boss Mary Barra's demand for US$1 billion to create ventilators has enraged US President Donald Trump. Credit: General Motors.

While entrepreneurs and companies around the world are moving quickly to retool their factories to build much needed ventilators to fight Covid-19, GM wanted “top dollar” for doing so, enraging President Donald Trump, CNBC reported.

Trump criticized General Motors and CEO Mary Barra on Friday for their response to producing life-saving ventilators amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“As usual with ‘this’ General Motors, things just never seem to work out,” Trump tweeted. “They said they were going to give us 40,000 much needed Ventilators, ‘very quickly’. Now they are saying it will only be 6,000, in late April, and they want top dollar. Always a mess with Mary B. Invoke ‘P’.”

In the initial tweet, the meaning of “Invoke P” wasn’t immediately clear. But Trump followed up with a second one, saying he was referring to invoking the Defense Production Act that would force companies to produce needed equipment, the report said. 

GM is “in the blocks, ready to start” production of ventilators but is awaiting regulatory approval, sources told CNBC’s Scott Wapner. A deal, according to the sources, could be announced as soon as Friday. 

Earlier Friday, The New York Times reported that GM and Ventec Life Systems, with which it is partnering to build such supplies, wanted more than US$1 billion, including hundreds of millions upfront to GM to retool a car parts plant in Kokomo, Indiana, to make the ventilators, the report said.

Trump, in a separate tweet, said GM “MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant, and START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!!!!!!” He also urged Ford Motor to “GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!!!”

Ford, in an emailed statement, said the company is in “active conversations with the Administration, seeking guidance about approvals, scope and distribution relating to a series of products, including ventilators.”

Ford last week announced plans to partner with GE Healthcare and 3M to “quickly expand production of urgently needed medical equipment and supplies,” including masks, air-purifying respirators and ventilators.

“Ford is pulling out all the stops to quickly and safely provide vitally needed equipment for patients, first responders and healthcare workers,” the company said, adding it has delivered tens of thousands of Ford-produced face shields to hospitals and police agencies. 

Meanwhile, there was some good news on the ventilator front.

A New York hospital system has begun treating two patients instead of one on some ventilators, a desperate measure that could help alleviate a shortage of the critical breathing machines and help hospitals around the country respond to the surge of coronavirus patients expected in the coming weeks, the New York Times reported.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, began “ventilator sharing” this week, said Dr. Laureen Hill, chief operating officer at the Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center system, the report said.

Ventilator sharing has been explored in a few scientific studies and has been used twice in crisis situations — the immediate aftermath of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting and, as of several days ago, by an emergency physician, Dr. Marco Garrone, for coronavirus patients in Italy, the report said.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said on Thursday that the state had approved the new method, which is also being studied by federal officials.

And this week, the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use approval to a device called VESper, developed by the South Carolina-based Prisma Health, that adapts one ventilator for use with four patients.

British tech firm Dyson also joined the Covid-19 fight by diverting some of its resources and expertise to help design a ventilator prototype in just 10 days, Techspot reported.

Impressively enough, Dyson’s creation – the CoVent – came together after James Dyson received a call from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.