Doctors at two Mumbai hospitals have said the ventilators, manufactured by Delhi-based start-up AgVa Healthcare, were not suitable for COVID-19 patients.
The statement comes after the St. George Hospital and JJ Hospital in Mumbai were criticised for rejecting 81 of these made-in-India ventilators donated by an NGO to the hospital in May. While the former has returned its share of the machines (39), the latter is set to return its 42 machines.
The hospital authorities told the media that "the machines could not provide 100 percent oxygen to COVID-19 patients; one failed within 5 minutes of being plugged in", adding that patients showed immediate improvement in oxygen saturation on being moved to other ventilators.
The AgVa ventilators have been caught up in controversy after an alarm was raised over their efficiency and reliability. The warning came in the wake of the central government ordering 10,000 of these ventilators from the Delhi start-up as part of its procurement of 50,000 ventilators by utilising the PMCARES fund - a dedicated COVID-19 fund which has been under the scanner over "lack of transparency".
The government rebuffed the claims, stating that the ventilators were approved by the Technical Committee after following due process and successful clinical trials were conducted.
The start-up has asserted that its ventilators are reliable and suited for ICU patients affected by the coronavirus. It has alleged that its low-cost ventilators, costing about $3,300 (INR 250,000), are being targeted as it disturbs the doctor-vendor nexus.
Meanwhile, Mumbai in Maharashtra remains the worst-hit city by COVID-19, with the state recording 70,622 active cases. With a four-digit spike in daily cases, the city is grappling with a shortage of ventilators and other essential equipment to deal with the crisis.
There are total 210,120 active cases in India, with 16,475 deaths so far, as per Indian Health and Family Welfare ministry.
As a measure to stop the spread of the infectious coronavirus from affecting the over 1.35 billion people of India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a national lockdown in the country on 24 March. The move was appreciated the world over. So far, a total of 321,722 COVID-19 patients have recovered or been discharged in the country.