Dismissing media reports that claimed that the government kept 13,000 unused ventilators during the COVID-19 second wave crisis and that these were not delivered to the states/UTs, the health ministry in a statement said, "There are no ventilators which have been kept in the inventory by the central government and not given to states that needed them. Every lot of ventilators which is ready for dispatch is getting dispatched to the states and UTs promptly. Therefore, the observations and interpretations drawn in the article are not based on facts.”
The Ministry of Health had placed the order for procurement of ventilators at the beginning of the pandemic itself, the statement stated.
It said the reports were "less than adequately informed and without any basis".
The orders were placed between March 27 and April 17, 2020 for procurement of 58,850 ventilators, it said.
“These were all Make-In-India ventilators considering the fact that there was a minimum possibility of sourcing imported ventilators from abroad in view of the fact that the global demand of ventilators had increased and the ventilator manufacturing countries had also imposed export restrictions.
“The domestic capacity of manufacturing ventilators was very limited and these manufacturers were encouraged to ramp up production, which they carried out by sourcing technology as well as undertaking tie ups with companies who could assist them in augmenting the production,” the statement said.
The health ministry said based on recommendations of the Empowered Group-III (meant for ensuring adequate supply of essential medical devices), these procurement orders were placed by the central dispensation.
After the ventilator models got technically examined and validated by the Committee of Experts under Director General of Health Services, these were recommended for supplies to the states and Union territories (UTs), it said.
The ministry further said that the supplies were made as per the demand received from states/UTs. The demand from the sates for ventilators received till September 2020 was addressed through supplies, it said.
Thereafter negligible additional requirement was projected by the states. Till November, 2020, almost entire quantity of ventilators demanded by the states had been delivered i.e., 35,398 ventilators, the statement said.
After November till March 2021, additional supply of ventilators was only 996 since the additional demand for ventilators was this much only, it said.
"Even out of the above supplied ventilators, a large number of ventilators remained un-installed in the states and even lying in their warehouses," the statement said.
Considering the fact that the states did not allocate them to hospitals in view of no demand, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan on April 11, 2021 addressed a letter to a few states requesting them to expedite the installation of ventilators, and for projecting additional requirement of ventilators if any in view of the recent surge in cases, it said.
“Subsequently, the Union Health Ministry reminded the states and UTs multiple times. The interpretation drawn in the article that the central government built up the inventory and did not supply 13,000 ventilators is factually incorrect," the statement said.
Since there was no demand from the states, no supply schedule was given to the manufacturers. The manufacturers are required to assemble the ventilators based on the demand projected to them within the quantity of overall orders given to them, it added.
With PTI inputs