Coronavirus treatment: 30,000 ventilators lying dysfunctional across the country, officers told

Published: April 4, 2020 6:30:58 AM

Representatives of industry are also learnt to have drawn the government's attention towards difficulties in import of components required for manufacturing of diagnostic kits domestically.

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Between 20,000 and 30,000 ventilators may be lying dysfunctional across the country – in both public and private sector hospitals – either for want of parts or servicing, it emerged during a meeting of one of the 11 empowered group of officers tasked with different aspects of coordinating response to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to sources, the issue figured during the meeting chaired by the NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant on Wednesday. A dozen senior representatives of industry chamber Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) were also present.

They are learnt to have discussed ways to augment supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), which are essential to check the spread of coronavirus.

“Nearly 20,000 to 30,000 ventilators are currently not operational in different parts of India due to lack of servicing and non-availability of components. NITI Aayog will share the relevant information of these ventilators with CII and coordinate with state governments to re-operationalise them,” a source with knowledge of the deliberations said, quoting discussions at the meeting.

The CII, the source said, will coordinate with ventilator manufacturers and service companies and implement the re-operationalisation process.

It is learnt that the CII has been asked to prepare a list of critical components required to put them back in use. CII director general Chandrajit Banerjee told The Indian Express: “Ventilators presently in India are manufactured by small manufacturers. We have created a coalition between the manufactures and large companies so that supply can be ramped up. We are also looking at scale and how we can scale things up for manufacturing ventilators.”

“We are looking at defence, automobile manufactures, and big companies that can do contract manufacturing and scale up the production level,” he said. Sources said officers informed the industry representatives that the government has already placed orders for procuring 50,000 ventilators.

Medanta CMD Dr Naresh Trehan, who was present in the meeting, has been asked to prepare an online training module and host webinars for information on operating and maintaining of ventilators, sources said.

Highlighting the constraints in domestic manufacturing of PPEs, industry representatives are learnt to have demanded import duty exemptions on items such as hi-tech nano-membranes (fabric form) and hot-air seam sealing machines that are required for manufacturing PPEs in the country. Domestic manufacturers at present import such items.

It is learnt that issue of augmenting the supply of Covid-19 diagnostic kits was also discussed. “Key industry leaders highlighted that the current estimate of the requirement of 16 lakh testing kits by June 2020 is a low number,” a source said.

Representatives of industry are also learnt to have drawn the government’s attention towards difficulties in import of components required for manufacturing of diagnostic kits domestically.

The group on coordinating with private sector, NGOs and international organisations headed by Kant comprises six other members: principal scientific advisor Dr Vijayaraghavan, NDMA member Kamal Kishore, CBIC member Sandeep Mohan Bhatnagar, additional secretary (home) Anil Malik, joint secretary in PMO Gopal Baglay and deputy secretary, Cabinet secretariat, Tina Soni.

The group has held at least five meetings since it was constituted on March 29, and the latest in the series were two separate meetings with representatives of industry associations NASSCOM and FICCI on Friday.

After Friday’s meeting, NITI Aayog’s Twitter handle posted, quoting Kant, “Supply chain challenges faced in the short term for health products are being actively addressed by the government. In the long term, sourcing of components can only be addressed by reducing the dependence on imports and fostering Make in India.”

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