Gambro AB is closing a molding and assembly plant in Newport News, Va., that makes components for dialysis machines, part of a restructuring that will trim 1,000 jobs worldwide and consolidate inefficient operations.
The Swedish dialysis company will not be decreasing overall production because it will be sending the equipment to plants in Tijuana, Mexico, Mirandola, Italy and Meyzieu, France, said spokesman Tim Schoenberg.
About 200 employees will be laid off at the Newport News plant. The company made the announcement Jan. 18.
A company official said the plant, which has 20 molding machines, will close sometime this year.
The restructuring in the company's renal care unit comes after Gambro's tubing business suffered a serious setback last summer, when it had to recall its products because defective tubing was linked to four deaths of dialysis patients in the United States.
Company officials said tubing made at Gambro's Tijuana plant was partially blocked by flashing, or excess plastic in the tube. That forced blood into smaller openings at higher pressure, damaging blood cells and causing abdominal pain, cyanosis and chest pain in patients, the company said.
The company said the restructuring, which started in the fall, was unrelated to the deaths. The problems in tube production were corrected by the third quarter, and U.S. sales are strong, the company said.
But the company faces a tight health-care market — Medicare has not had a price increase for dialysis services since 1991, Schoenberg said: ``We have to continually hold costs in line.''
Gambro, based in Stockholm, also will close a plant in Lakewood, Colo., that makes dialysis machines and move that production to Europe, and another in Oklahoma City that makes specialty parts for dialysis machines. Those two plants account for about 280 employees.
Besides those layoffs, the company plans an additional 550 job cuts at unspecified locations. Gambro employs 18,000, making dialysis equipment and operating 460 clinics worldwide.
The restructuring will cost the company $141 million initially, but will allow Gambro to save money by consolidating product lines, Schoenberg said.