The Centre on Friday took a u-turn when it told the Bombay High Court that the faulty ventilators manufactured by Gujarat-based firm Jyoti CNC supplied to the Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), Aurangabad were not through the PM Cares Fund. The Centre in its affidavit said that the Dhaman III ventilators were ordered along with 58,000 other ventilators by the Centre's Production, Procurement, Import, and Import Distribution Department by encouraging local manufacturers.
The high court, however, pointed out that the Centre's submission was the opposite at the previous hearing where it had said that 150 ventilators supplied to the GMCH were through the PM Cares fund initiative.
"As such, there is a complete denial that these ventilators were supplied through PMCares as was earlier announced," the high court said.
The high court also took exception to the Centre "defending the manufacturers" and declaring faulty ventilators to be in "operating condition". The high court observed that such statements demonstrated the Centre's insensitivity.
The high court rejected the health ministry's submission that the doctors and paramedics at the Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), Aurangabad were not properly trained to operate the "modern ventilators, which are highly complex and are sophisticated medical equipments."
The health ministry should have avoided the blame game and instead shown sensitivity towards the patients, the court observed.
"You are telling us people operating the ventilators are untrained; therefore, ventilators are becoming dysfunctional? What a fantastic argument. You handed over ventilators to those persons who were not competent to touch it?" the court had orally observed.
At the last hearing on May 25, the high court had taken cognisanze of the hospital Dean's report which said 113 of the 150 ventilators it received from Jyoti CNC, a Gujarat based firm under the PM Cares fund was faulty. The high court had observed that the issue of "dysfunctional ventilators supplied through the PM Cares Fund to be quite serious" and had sought remedial action.
The Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court was hearing its suo motu case on issues out of the second COVID wave.
Centre's defence of faulty ventilator shows insensitivity: HC
The court observed that the Centre's counsel was making submissions as though it was representing the manufacturer." The high court said the Centre's affidavit "has a semblance of the affiant virtually defending the manufacturer and declaring that the ventilators are in operating condition."
The high court found the affidavit demonstrated the health ministry's "insensitivity". "Instead of expressing wholehearted support to ensure that such [machines] are put to optimum utilization in the interest of the lives of the patients, it appears that the affiant found it advantageous to contend that there is no merit in the report of the dean of the Government Medical College(GMCH)," the bench observed.
"We would also appreciate if the MoHFW (health ministry) refrains from questioning the reports of the medical experts and instead respects such reports in the larger interest of the society and concentrates on rectifying the said machines," high court added.
The high court then directed the Centre to make efforts in order to ensure the machines are in working condition again.
Concluding the matter for the day, the high court said that before accepting or acquiring such medical equipments/instruments, by any medical facility/hospital, the State Government should be making it mandatory for the Manufacturer to undertake fullest cooperation and assistance in the event of the equipment becoming dysfunctional or in the event of break down or the performance of such instrument not being at the optimum level."