The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court on Tuesday recorded that at least 113 of the 150 ventilators provided by the Centre under the PM CARES Fund were faulty, reported Live Law.

“Let the government realise they had supplied inferior quality ventilators, let them go back and replace them with certain good quality ventilators,” the court said. “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.”

A division bench of Justices Ravindra Ghuge and DU Bedabwar was hearing a suo motu criminal public interest litigation on the management of the coronavirus crisis in Maharashtra’s Marathwada region.

“We find the situation as regards to dysfunctional ventilators through the PM Cares fund to be quite serious...ventilators are believed to be lifesaving instruments and malfunctioning can put lives of patients in danger,” the HC said, according to The Indian Express. The court also asked Additional Solicitor General Ajay G Talhar to inform it about the corrective measures if the equipment were found to be faulty.

The remarks came after the Government Medical College and Hospital in Aurangabad told the court that the medical facility had rejected the ventilators sent under the PM CARES initiative. The hospital had said that a patient had become hypoxic, a medical term to denote that the person was having breathing difficulties.

“Why don’t you send it back?” the court told the hospital. “We appreciate central ministry gave it to you, but if it is 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.”

The court ordered the central government to note the remedial measures taken in the matter. It also asked the Centre to inform the court about the action planned against the company that provided the ventilators.

“The company should not get away with this,” the High Court said, according to Live Law. “It’s the state ex-chequers money; it’s not bounty to be distributed.”

Out of the 150 ventilators, the court noted that the Government Medical College and Hospital used 17 of the equipment, 41 were sent to private hospitals that did not charge the patients for the ventilators, and 55 were distributed in districts outside Aurangabad.

In its submission, the dean of the hospital stated that the 17 faulty ventilators had shown flaws that would severely affect the treatment of patients using the equipment, reported Live Law. “Except for the 37 ventilators, which are yet to be unboxed, 113 ventilators are found to be defective. As such, the Dean of GMCH justifies her decision not to unbox the remaining 37 ventilators as all the 113 ventilators that have been put to use suffered from malfunctioning.”

The court will take up the matter again on May 28.

Politicians visit to hospital

The court also took note of a news report that said a Member of the Legislative Assembly had been inspecting the ventilators. However, this politician had no connection with the hospital.

“Having gone through newspaper items, we find some of people’s representatives have jumped into issue of nonfunctional ventilators,” the court said, according to The Indian Express. “Some of the politicians have started visiting GMCHs [Government Medical College and Hospitals] to find out whether ventilators are functioning properly or not. We express our displeasure as regards such indulgence by people’s representatives.”

The High Court bench added that politicians were making contrary statements that were not in good taste. “We find it to be distasteful as some politicians have visited the hospital posing as if they have knowledge or expertise to inspect the ventilators and recommend correctional methods,” the court said.

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