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Bombay HC pulls up Centre for ‘virtually defending’ manufacturers of ‘defective’ Marathwada ventilators

The bench pulled up the Centre observing that an affidavit filed by MoHFW had “semblance of affiant virtually defending manufacturers and declaring that ventilators are in immaculate condition”.

Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai |
Updated: May 29, 2021 8:03:31 am
Faulty ventilators, ‘defective’ Marathwada ventilators, Bombay Hc on ventilators, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Indian Express, Mumbai news, Marathwada, Maharashtra covid cases, ventilatorsHUL is committed to helping the healthcare system as the country continues to the fight the deadly second wave of Covid-19.

While “completely denying” claims that “defective” or “dysfunctional” ventilators supplied to Aurangabad’s Government Medical College and Hospital in Marathwada were provided through the PM Cares funds, the Union government on Friday told the Bombay High Court that these were purchased through the Union Health Ministry.

The bench pulled up the Centre observing that an affidavit filed by MoHFW had “semblance of affiant virtually defending manufacturers and declaring that ventilators are in immaculate condition”. It noted that such statements demonstrated “insensitivity by MoHFW” and failed to express “wholehearted support to ensure that such costly instruments are put to optimum utilisation in the interest of lives of patients”.

“Are you (Centre) going to justify the company or be alive to the fact that these ventilators are affecting people’s lives?” the HC orally remarked.

The court noted that the Union government had raised doubts on efficiency of medical staffers in hospitals, claiming that as the ventilators in question were not used by following “prescribed procedures”, they malfunctioned. “We are unable to appreciate the contention that said ventilators are in perfect condition,” the HC noted.

“We would have appreciated if the affidavit had avoided entering into the blame game and instead shown sensitivity towards the patients…” it said.

A division bench of Justice Ravindra V Ghuge and Justice Bhalchandra U Debadwar was hearing a suo motu PIL filed based on news reports pertaining to Covid-19 management, including lack of supply of essential equipment in hospitals and black-marketing of anti-viral drugs.

On May 25, the bench had directed the Union government to address the issue at the next hearing. The HC was informed by Chief Public Prosecutor D R Kale, representing Maharashtra government, that of the 150 ventilators supplied by the Centre through PM Cares funds received by the GMCH dean – except the 37 that are yet to be unboxed – 113 were found to be “defective” by government and private hospitals in Marathwada.

On Friday, Assistant Solicitor General (ASG) Ajay G Talhar, appearing for the Centre, submitted an affidavit filed by the MoHFW, stating that ventilators had originated from a company named Jyoti CNC at Rajkot and had gone through “world class testing parameters”.

The affidavit contained an explanation by the manufacturer that the GMCH was “non-cooperative” right from when it took delivery and due to “inadequate infrastructure” at the hospital, the ventilators are not being used properly.

The bench observed that the Centre’s affidavit did not even “remotely refer” to a report submitted by Aurangabad GMCH dean – signed by a committee of eight senior doctors and experts who deal in ICU management and utilisation of ventilators — and noted that “several details in the report were quite shocking”.

The committee has observed that while other ventilators manufactured by different companies were being successfully used for a year in hospitals, only those manufactured by Jyoti CNC were malfunctioning. The panel opined that the ventilators were “unsafe for patient use” and decided “not to test any of them on patients henceforth”.

Following this, the ASG submitted that MoHFW would take all remedial steps and ensure ventilators operate normally and all defects, if any, would be removed.

The HC asked the ASG to respond to the findings of the committee report in the next hearing on June 2. “We would also appreciate if MOHFW refrains from questioning reports of medical experts and instead respects them in the larger interest of the society for rectifying said machines,” HC said.

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