GUILFORD — The 80 employees at Bio-Med Devices, Inc. are working overtime, seven days a week, to keep up with the demand for ventilators and air-oxygen blenders.

“We’re running full steam ahead right now,” said Bio-Med president, CEO and owner Dean Bennett, III.

Bennett said it is important that his product is for individuals with coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. Hospitals across the countru may be face severe shortages of ventilators if COVID-19 spreads and requires mass hospitalizations, health officials are warning.

“What a ventilator does is it breathes for the patient,” said Bennett. “Patients aren’t able to breathe, so they’re hooked up to the ventilator through a disposable tubing between the machine and the patient.

“They have a trach (tracheotomy) set up and the ventilator will actually breathe for them, to keep them alive until they can recover,” he said.

An air-oxygen blender can be used in conjunction with a ventilator or on its own.

The device delivers air and oxygen and can be used in conjunction with a ventilator or one their own with delivery through a nasal canula.

“You dial in a percentage that you want to deliver to the patient,” explained Bennett. “They can be used with ventilators, but they can be used, also, as a high flow system with a nasal canula to help patients in this situation that might not need to be intubated with a ventilator, but need high flow oxygen therapy.”

Bio-Med is a small, privately owned company that started in Madison in 1986, with five employees. At that time Bennett worked alongside his father, Dean Bennett, Jr. The company moved to Guilford in 1993-94.

“We are proud to have a Guilford company, long known for its quality products and services, contributing to the efforts to fight this virus,” said Guilford First Selectman Matt Hoey.

In addition to transportable ventilators and air oxygen blenders, the company designs and manufactures ventilation monitors, disposable and reusable breathing circuits and accessories.

Bio-Med increased its production of ventilators and air oxygen about three weeks ago to meet the worldwide demand.

“It’s overwhelming, but we’re doing everything we possibly can because it’s a very important product in this situation, with this virus,” said the Madison resident.

“It’s going to save people’s lives,” he added.

Max Reiss, director of communications for Gov. Ned Lamont, applauds Bio-Med’s work.

“Medical device providers are vital right now to an adequate response to this ongoing public health crisis,” Reiss said.

“The ventilator issue is a serious one,” he added. “There is no one in the country and no one in Europe that has enough of these ventilators, so to see a Connecticut company in such high demand and getting those orders out the door is great to see, to help both people in our state and elsewhere.”

For Bio-Med, in addition to ventilators, the air-oxygen blenders are also in high demand at this point.

“There’s one that came in this morning for 1,000, one yesterday for 1,000,” Bennett said about orders for the air-oxygen blender.

He estimates that his company currently has the ability with materials on hand to produce about 140 to 150 ventilators, which he hopes he can be kept in the United States. He is in conversations with the state Department of Public Health to discuss this, specifically.

“When existing orders of raw materials arrive, we will continue manufacturing,” said Bennett.

“Ours are less expensive because they are considered more of a transport ventilator,” Bennett explained. “Meaning that there’s built-in battery, built in compressor, so if the patient needs to be moved it’s easier to move.”

The ventilators shipped out of Bio-Meds headquarters in Guilford are about $10,000 to $20,000. In comparison, an intensive care ventilator can cost up to $40,000.

“It’s a very sophisticated device and obviously maintaining inventory levels is very expensive for a small company,” said Bennett.

Bio-Med’s ventilators are tailored for premature babies, pediatrics and adults and can be configured to have all three patient categories or just infant or just adult.

“So, we do make some assemblies before we get orders, then we can configure them to what the customer wants,” he added.

Bennett explained that because a lot of countries were hit with COVID-19 before the United States, Bio-Med ventilators have been shipped to Italy, the United Kingdom, South America and Japan.

“The supply chain is tough right now,” he added. “The parts come from all over the world and a lot of ventilator manufacturers use some of the same suppliers, so there’s a shortage.”

Bennett and his staff are working hard to keep up with demand.

“We’re trying to motivate the employees and make them understand this is something that is absolutely necessary, we’re saving lives,” he said. “I wish it wasn’t because of this, but we’re going to be doing everything we can to produce as many as we possibly can.”

Connecticut Media Group