113 out of 150 ventilators defected, supplied in Marathwada under ‘PM Care’: Bombay HC demand explanation

The Bombay High Court’s Aurangabad Bench took serious note on ‘defective ventilators’ supplied under PM Care Fund to Marathwada region and instructed Union’s lawyer to take suitable action against and take curative measures in the same matter.

The Bombay HC took cognizance, that out of 150 ventilators, 113 used by either public or private hospitals turned out to be defective and the other 37 remained unboxed. The bench even questioned the Chief Public Prosecutor, if they could return the defected PM Care Fund ventilators.

The bench noted that the Dean Government Medical College received 150 ventilators through the PM Cares Fund, out of which 17 ventilators were used by GMCH, 41 supplied to private hospital for free, with condition of not charging COVID patients, and 55 distributed to other districts; mentioned in a 55-page compilation by the Chief Public Prosecutor DR Kale for the State.

A division bench of Justices Ravindra V Ghuge and Bhalchandra U Debadwar were hearing a suo motu PIL addressing issues of funeral rites of Covid-19 patients, shortage of beds and medical oxygen supply and hoarding of Remdesivir.

“This is a very serious issue. Why don’t you send it back? We appreciate Central Ministry gave it to you, but if it’s likely to be a health risk or health hazard to a patient, you can’t use it. It’s better that you write to the Government and send it back. Let the Government realise they had supplied inferior quality ventilators, let them go back and replace them with certain good quality ventilators. If the PM cares fund is to be used for providing ventilators, it should be ventilators worthy of medical use, and if they are not worthy of medical use, it’s just a box,” the Bench said.

Court appointed Amicus Curiae Satyajeet S Bora, to assist the situation and submit a report concerning non functional ventilators. In the report, Jyoti CNC company was found out to be the manufacturer of the ventilators, with major flaws in its functioning, including low inlet oxygen pressure display and patient becoming hypoxic when on ventilator and some were “life-threatening”. Justice Ravindra Ghuge said, “the company should not get away with this. It’s the state ex-chequers money; it’s not bounty to be distributed.”

However, the court, noted that nearly 74 other ventilators supplied by several private industrialists including Garare Polyester, Bajaj Auto, Hindalco etc. are “perfectly operational and flawless”.’

The Court also expressed its displeasure over public representatives, that is some politicians’ digging into the issue of flawed ventilators for self benefits. Amicus Curiae, during the hearing,  pointed out that public representatives have been jumping into the issue of non functional ventilators and visiting hospitals and medical colleges for surveying the crisis.

“This is not adversarial. We want all the politicians to keep quiet on this. Do they have the knowledge and expertise? If they do, ask them to repair these ventilators. If they don’t have the knowledge, it is better they keep quiet.”

“Two respectable deans of medical colleges are saying they are not functional, let us not pretend we know more than them. And if they wish to, ask some of the MPs to put them in their own hospitals and check them,” justice Ghuge noted orally.

The bench further added while dictating its order,

“We express our displeasure at such indulgence by the People’s representatives, this is likely to be more bothersome to the medical faculty than render assistance. Contrary statements are being issued by the politicians, which be find to be distasteful as some politicians have visited the hospitals, posing as if they have the knowledge and expertise to recommend correctional methods. Some have declared all the ventilators are in good working condition, and some have stated that as the ventilators were lying idle, they have become dysfunctional.

Photographs have been published by these newspapers which indicate that a local MLA having no connection with the medical faculty is inspecting the ventilators’s in the GMCH. We would appreciate if a political colour is not attached to this aspect since the ventilators are believed to be live-saving instruments, and slightest of non-functioning, can put the life of the patient at risk.”

The next hearing of the Suo Moto PIL will be on 28th May, in court.

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