March 22, 2020 / 8:14 PM / 14 days ago

UPDATE 1-Philips to ramp up production of ventilators in coronavirus fight

(Adds CEO quotes, more detail)

AMSTERDAM, March 22 (Reuters) - Dutch health technology company Philips is to ramp up production of critical healthcare products to help diagnose and treat patients with the new coronavirus disease COVID-19.

Philips said on Sunday that it aimed to double its production of hospital ventilators within the next eight weeks and to achieve a four-fold increase by the third quarter.

"We currently make around a thousand ventilators per week and are looking to reach around 2,000 in the coming weeks," Chief Executive Frans van Houten told Reuters.

"We will continue to increase production, because we see an enormous demand."

Van Houten said he had been in contact with his main competitors, such as Draeger and Medtronic, who he said were also aiming to increase production.

"Our increase alone will certainly not be enough," he said. "But together, we hope to come towards meeting demand."

Van Houten said Philips also hopes to increase production of other equipment critical in the fight against COVID-19, such as vital signs monitors, diagnostic imaging systems and software solutions for hospitals to monitor and manage patients in intensive care units.

For this, Philips expects to hire extra manufacturing staff as well as shifting current staff to the production lines where they are most needed.

"But the most important part is to get suppliers to cooperate, to facilitate the ramp-up in production", Van Houten said.

Despite the increased demand for its critical healthcare equipment, Philips said it expected the coronavirus outbreak to harm its results in the first half of 2020.

Philips had earlier already warned about the impact of the pandemic on first-quarter earnings because demand for its consumer products has waned and global supply chains have been severely disrupted. (Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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