By State Rep. Bob Brooks
54th Legislative District
When the coronavirus pandemic hit in the United States, frontline workers risked their lives to protect our communities. Pennsylvania’s nurses, doctors and other health care professionals rose to the challenge to help their patients battle the virus. They deserve our utmost respect and appreciation for their service.
We also sometimes forget that Pennsylvania workers who produced life-saving medical equipment were also key partners on the front lines of this pandemic. Their work to make personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators, and other critical necessities ensured that hospitals had an adequate equipment supply to combat this new virus and keep patients alive. As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said of Philips based in Western Pennsylvania: “There’s a medical device company in Murrysville that could be responsible for saving more lives this year than any hospital in town.”
While this pandemic put hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians out of work, many of whom are still struggling to pay their bills today, one of the bright spots is that some of our manufacturers created good-paying jobs in response to demand during the pandemic.
Pennsylvania saw a job increase after Philips secured a ventilator contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to produce life-saving ventilators at manufacturing plants in Western Pennsylvania. At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, when little was known about the virus and its effects, the contract reflected the company’s and Pennsylvanians’ spirit to step up to the challenge to reverse the severe nationwide shortage of ventilators quickly.
Philips, which normally makes CPAP machines in Murrysville, ramped up the production of their ventilators fourfold, and employees worked around the clock to produce ventilators that saved many American lives. The company also provided hundreds of well-paying manufacturing jobs that helped soften the economic blow for many families. This is all in addition to the substantial investments the company made in tools, molds and facility modernizations to produce the ventilators that the federal government needed.
There is an upcoming hearing in Congress that is centered on the ventilator contracts that were negotiated, then later canceled after the U.S. ventilator stockpile reached capacity. Whatever your politics are, companies like Philips and their employees worked tirelessly on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. It would be wrong if the members of Congress who take part in the hearing politicize this issue. It’s important that our policymakers focus on recognizing the contribution of so many workers in our state and specifically my district.
The world’s response to the coronavirus wasn’t perfect, but we surely should not be criticizing the medical companies that stepped up to help. We need to thank these companies and recognize the important sacrifice our frontline workers made, at a time when little was known about the virus. Their efforts to protect their fellow Americans should be celebrated and definitely not criticized.
Representative Bob Brooks
54th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Rick Leiner
717.260.6437 (office), 717.497.8478 (cell)