Thousands of breathing machines in the US stockpile broken

Every US hospital is in serious shortage of ventilator. Photo: Reuters.
Every US hospital is in serious shortage of ventilator. Photo: Reuters.

US President Donald Trump asserted that the federal government had 10,000 ventilators in the reserve, but in fact more than 2,100 units were broken.

According to the New York Times, Mr. Trump has repeatedly reassured Americans that the federal government is willing to send ventilators to hospitals struggling with the Covid-19 epidemic nationwide.

However, the White House “ignored” the fact that 2,109 breathing machines were determined to be damaged after the government’s maintenance contract for the ventilator’s store expired last summer. A contract dispute caused Agiliti, the new maintenance firm, to work under a new deal of $ 38 million until the end of January.

At that time, the Covid-19 epidemic began to attack the United States. The story came to light only when state officials reflected some of the ventilators they received were not working and the US Department of Health had to open an investigation.

This delay could have serious consequences for the currently sought-after lifesaving equipment of the federal government. Worth mentioning, a series of poor quality ventilators has been reported recently in many states.

Complex machines

The state of California received 170 damaged breathing apparatuses from the federal government. Photo: AP.
The state of California received 170 damaged breathing apparatuses from the federal government. Photo: AP.

Between the original contract expires and the time we win the bid, it is not clear which party is responsible for equipment warranty. Not us, “Agiliti CEO Tom Leonard said.

Under an information security agreement with the US government, Leonard said it was impossible to provide specific numbers of ventilators his company was warranting. “We have not touched any ventilators that have been taken to hospitals,” he said.

Breathing devices are so complex devices that President Trump describes them as “making cars”. And just like cars, these devices need regular maintenance instead of being left out of storage.

Therefore, it is not surprising that US hospitals are on fire, having to scramble to buy ventilators to receive from the federal government machines that have run out of batteries, lack oxygen tubes and have broken many sets. fate.

The state of California received 170 ventilators that were broken, although the US Department of Health confirmed that all ventilators transported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) were in good working order. The Ministry of Health then explained that some devices only had external battery problems.

On April 1, the federal government revealed that the inventory of federal medical equipment was nearly depleted. Fema has transferred 26 million surgical masks, 11.6 million antibacterial masks and more than 5 million face masks.

The unclear White House policy pushed American states and cities into a race to buy medical supplies, pushing up equipment prices. Before the epidemic, the average price of an antibacterial respirator in the US was only about US $ 0.85. However, the most breathtaking scramble revolved around ventilators.

The states offered to grant or buy tens of thousands of ventilators while the US government only had 9,400 units in stockpiles. The US Department of Defense also has 1,065 ventilators available, but these devices require special training to use and are not common.

Depends on external sources

Most ventilator manufacturers place production lines overseas. Photo: New York Times.
Most ventilator manufacturers place production lines overseas. Photo: New York Times.

Aric Vacchiano, vice chairman of Vyaire Medical, one of the ventilators supplying federal storage, said his company received hundreds of calls from state governments. “They are managing in all directions,” Mr. Vacchiano described.

Vyaire is responsible for the warranty of some ventilators in the federal reserve until the contract expires in August 2019. The company filed a lawsuit when the warranty was awarded to Agiliti. The dispute lasted until January, and Agiliti was eventually given the right to maintain the ventilator in the federal warehouse.

The US Department of Health did not answer questions about the period in which the ventilator unit was not in maintenance. The agency only said it has accelerated the contract with Agiliti to supply the remaining 2,109 units on April 30.

As of the morning of April 1, FEMA transferred about 7,000 ventilators to several states, including 4,000 to New York. President Trump said he would keep the remaining equipment in stock to prevent further outbreaks of disease.

Not only relying on the support of the federal government, each state is struggling to equip breathing machines by all means. The state governments have been massively ordering equipment from domestic manufacturers and found that all firms have production lines overseas, such as China, Ireland, Switzerland and several other countries.

“We are extremely short of equipment,” Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont annoyed when he interviewed CNN earlier this week. “There are lots of ventilators about to be delivered to us, but at the last minute FEMA shipped them to another state that was supposed to be a more worrying hot spot.”

The state of Illinois requires 4,000 ventilators and receives only 450 units. New Jersey wants 2,300 and only gets 300. Virginia needs 350 and doesn’t have one. Illinois asked Vice President Mike Pence 4,000 units, but Mr. Pence answered that the state didn’t need that many machines.

At this point, states in the United States are forced to scramble whatever connection is available, from converting anesthesia to breathing apparatus, creating new valves with 3-D printers so that many patients can share the same device … These options have not been tested on a large scale and can lead to risks.