Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), which which was tasked with manufacturing approximately 30,000 ventilator machines since last year, said that some ventilators in states like Punjab were dismissed as ‘faulty’ were not maintained properly. As per a report published by Times of India, Punjab hospitals had failed to cover the regular repair and maintenance work owing to which the ventilators appeared ‘faulty’.
M.V. Gowtham, CMD, BEL, told ToI, “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 replaced. It is mandatory to change the flow sensor each time a new patient comes to 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.”
The Central Government in a letter has highlighted how some states have been mismanaging the ventilators allocated to them. The development comes days after Punjab and Maharashtra accused the Centre of providing them with faulty ventilators. The Central Government has directed the states to ensure smooth working of these devices and to routinely have maintenance work carried out.
The Central Government has said that “in a number of hospitals the sites are not ready for ventilator installation. This includes lack of availability of piped oxygen supply system or lack of optimum oxygen pressure in the pipe system or even proper electrical fittings.”
The Union Government said that while the manufactures will supply the ventilators and demonstrate their proper usage, hospitals also need to take some measures that include “training of the user staff of hospitals, provide them with manuals and audio-visual/online training for guarding against any information gaps in the use of ventilators” and “ensure robust and prompt follow-up of complaints received from hospitals/States in the whatsapp groups, email, telephonic calls and through toll-free numbers already communicated to the States/UTs.”
Consequently, States and Union Territories have also been instructed to adopt certain measures that include ensuring the “availability of ventilator connectors and proper electrical fittings in the hospitals where deliveries of ventilators will take place” and “minimum required oxygen pressure in the pipeline needed for the optimum functioning of ventilators.”
States and Union Territories have also been directed to “ensure timely replacement and use of fresh consumables in line with the guidance provided by the manufacturers.”
Another letter sent on the 9th of May by joint secretary Dr Mandeep K Bhandari, ministry of health and family welfare 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 utilise ventilators is sensitised, and undertake required training.”
It was reported earlier that 250 ventilators were left unused during the second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic in Punjab. A Congress leader from Maharashtra had accused the Central Government of a ‘ventilator scam’, following which the MoFHW was forced to issue a clarification debunking his claims.