The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has closed in on a case where the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) was supplied with faulty Intensive Care Unit (ICU) ventilators at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic by Kantanshi Member of Parliament, Anthony Mumba’s company.
During the Parliamentary Accounts Committee hearing on the Audit query on the faulty ventilators, University Teaching Hospital (UTH) Head of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Dr Christopher Chanda admitted that technicians used some new ICU Ventilators for about two months but discovered them to be faulty, hence withdrawing them.
Speaking when the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) visited UTH to check equipment procured during the Covid era, Dr Chanda noted that there was a lot of pandemic-induced pressure and technicians had no choice but start using the ventilators without getting trained.
“I understand that they were procured centrally and as the Department of Anesthesia, we had no role in supplying the specifications of the machines, of course, the ventilators came and we are the end users on patients and we started using them,” Dr Chanda said.
Dr Chanda added that he would not actually confirm that they submitted any specifications for these particular ventilators because when you do checks on the machine, it is one of the sensors that you calibrate and calibrating of the sensor requires that end users are trained.
“I think the training was not done because of the urgency of the Covid-19 pandemic as I was corrected that they did not do the initial training for that,” he noted
He explained that Biomed have the responsibility to ensure that the sensors are optimal even before the ventilators are used., they also have the responsibility to ensure that the gadget that is going to be used passes the software test and physical things.
Dr Chanda mentioned that what he remembers is that the machines came in and there was no training, therefore, there was no installation because normally, installation is by the manufacturer who does technical training to the Biomed.
“Unfortunately for this one, I think the training never happened and I think the training came two or three months after the machines were already in use,” he said
The supply of faulty ventilators (VG70 ICU Ventilators) was cited by the Auditor General as dangerous and wasteful expenditure which resulted in some unknown number of deaths being associated with the faulty ventilators.
In his response, the Controlling Officer submitted that ventilators were according to specifications, however, the issue was lack of training which the supplier could not provide as the manufacturing engineers could not travel because of the COVID-19 movement restrictions.
However, the supplier was engaged and virtual technical training was arranged and conducted, where the training manuals and service manuals were given after the training and the ventilators were all in good working condition.
Nevertheless, during the Committee’s verification tour of the University Teaching Hospital, on the VG 70 Ventilators, the Committee established that the end users were not given approval to provide an input into the specifications of the ventilators required by the Hospital.
It was also established that the supplied ventilators developed oxygen sensor failures, a few months after being supplied. Furthermore, the Committee established that by the time most ventilators were being delivered, the life span of the oxygen sensors was expiring.
Auditor General Director Ministerial Audits Patrick Simusokwe stated that the procurement of new oxygen sensors one month after the machines proved faulty was reflected as wasteful expenditure by the government.
And the latest Auditor General’s report indicated that 25 VG ICU Ventilators delivered to the University Teaching Hospitals had an error message of “Oxygen Sensor Failure”.