As COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Punjab, putting its medical infrastructure to test, at least 237 of the 320 ventilators received through the PM CARES Fund at the three government medical colleges are defective and non-functional.
Professional adviser to Punjab’s COVID-19 response and procurement committee, Dr. Raj Bahadur, told The Hindu on Wednesday the government of India has been providing ventilators to States which are allotting them to various medical institutions.
“The medical college in Patiala received 98 ventilators from the PM CARES Fund. Though 48 of them were made functional after repair, they are still not put to use because the anaesthetists are not confident lest they should break down at critical times. Another 50 are non-functional there. The college is using its own 61 ventilators,” he said.
“At the medical college in Amritsar, only 12 of the 109 ventilators provided by the Centre are functional. Similarly, at the Guru Gobind Singh Medical College and Hospital in Faridkot, 90 of the 113 ventilators are non-functional.
“..as the number of COVID-19 patients is increasing, there is tremendous pressure on the institutions for providing ventilators to critically ill patients. We have been regularly informing the State regarding the malfunctioning and the Health Department has conveyed the same to the government of India in loud and clear words. It is to be inquired whether the other States have received functional ventilators or not from the PM CARES? I believe other States too might be facing a similar situation,” he said.
Mr. Bahadur said it is imperative that the Centre should have provided a long-term annual maintenance contract for these ventilators. “Besides, at least one engineer should be deployed at each medical hospital, where the ventilators have been sent. Also, there should be inventory in abundance. Only then there’s any benefit of these ventilators,” he said.
“Currently, we are working with State-owned resources to fight the pandemic,” he said.
Opposition demands probe
The Opposition parties have demanded a probe into the issue. Aam Aadmi Party MLA and its farmer wing president Kultar Singh Sandhwan said the Central government was messing with the lives of the people. Besides, the rise in the cases and deaths was a result of poor health services in the State, for which, he said the ruling Congress government was responsible.
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to order an inquiry into the purchase of faulty ventilators under the aegis of the PM CARES Fund.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, the SAD president said: “I am sure you would agree with me that supplying defective and inferior quality ventilators during a time of national health emergency is a criminal offence. The company responsible for this should be booked and they should be proceeded against as per the law.”