Centre reprimand states on ‘Faulty’ ventilators

The central government has reminded state governments of Maharashtra and Punjab to recalibrate settings, check oxygen pressure and maintenance of consumable components which the state government weren't doing properly, resulting in the dumping of ventilators for non-use.

The centre has replied to the states after Maharashtra and Punjab accused the Indian Government of supplying with ‘Faulty’ ventilators. The Indian government highlighted the mismanagements of the equipment by the states.

It has directed the states to recalibrate the systems for the smooth working of the devices, this includes setting the device according to the surrounding environment, checking and changing key consumables such as oxygen, oxygen sensors and flow sensors on time. It was noted that these mere procedures were not been taken care of, which resulted in the dumping of ventilators. Claiming them to be ‘faulty’.

The health officials response came after were registered in Punjab. The Punjab medical officer claimed 237 out of 320 ventilators were either defective or non-functional in Amritsar, Faridkot and Patiala.

A letter written by Union Health Secretory Rajesh Bhushan, dated May 13, stated: ‘It has been observed that in several hospitals and states, sites aren’t ready for ventilator installation. This include lack of availability of piped oxygen supply system or lack of optimum oxygen pressure in the pipe system or even lack of proper electrical fittings’.

The order of 60,000 ventilators was placed by the centre in April 2020 and more than 49,000 have been allocated to the states, including 12,000 dispatched during the second wave of covid. Some 50,000 from this were sent under the PM-CARES fund. Astonishingly around 4,854 ventilators are lying unused. The companies tasked with the manufacturing of ventilators are Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) (30,000), Agva healthcare (10,000), Andhra MED-TECH Zone (13,500) and Jyoti CNC (5000).

BEL was asked about the issue of non-utilisation of ventilators. “There are flow sensors connected with the patient’s ICU and then there are oxygen sensors. When our team went to Faridkot, we saw consumables were not placed. It is mandatory to change the flow sensor each time a new patient comes to the ICU. Second, some ventilators were not calibrated along the latitude-longitude of Faridkot during installation. Whenever a ventilator changes location, oxygen pressure must be changed according to that location. Third, oxygen sensors have a shelf life. If you use it with a dozen patients with 100% oxygen, it will deteriorate, it won’t work. Oxygen sensors must be changed, which did not happen in Faridkot,” said M V Gowtham, CMD, BEL.

Another letter, on May 9, said, “The lack of installation might be on various accounts, such as lack of trained and skilled manpower for using them, improper handling of devices… Ensure manpower given to utilize ventilators is sensitized, and undertake required training.” The letter was sent by joint secretary Dr Mandeep K Bhandari, ministry of health and family welfare. In the letter, officials also told Punjab chief secretary, Vini Mahajan, “The ministry provided ventilators because of the urgency. Non-commissioning of the same defeats the very purpose of the exercise.”  

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