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Russia suspends the use of ventilators implicated in hospital fires

Emergency specialists work on the site of a fire that killed five coronavirus patients in an intensive care unit, at a hospital in St. Petersburg, Russia, on May 12, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)
Russia has suspended the use of Russian-made medical ventilators of a certain model manufactured after April 1, a state health regulator said on Wednesday, following two hospital fires reported to involve two such machines.

The Aventa-M medical ventilator was used at the Saint George’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, where five people died in a fire on Tuesday, and also in a hospital in Moscow where a fire killed one person on Saturday.

Roszdravnadzor, Russia’s health watchdog, said it would check the quality and safety of the ventilators in the two hospitals, and the St. Petersburg hospital said it would stop using the model in question for now. At least two Russian regions told Russian news agencies they would also suspend the use of the ventilators.

The manufacturer urged people to avoid rushing to conclusions.
The model in question, the Aventa-M, was among those sent to the United States from Russia at the start of April to help cope with the coronavirus pandemic. It is made by a firm that is under US sanctions.

The ventilators were never deployed to hospitals in the United States, said Janet Montesi, a spokeswoman for the US Federal Emergency Management Agency. The machines were delivered to New York and New Jersey, the US states the hardest hit by the virus, but “the flattening curve meant these ventilators were not needed,” she said.

“Out of an abundance of caution, the states are returning the ventilators to FEMA,” and the investigation by the Russian authorities will help the agency’s decision on any future use, Montesi said.

The Ural Instrument Engineering Plant (UPZ) in Chelyabinsk, 1,500 kilometers east of Moscow, confirmed that the Aventa-M was one of its products and had been supplied to Saint George’s Hospital.

“We have no official data about which devices were installed in the zone of the (St. Petersburg) fire,” a spokeswoman added.

Russia is relatively well stocked with ventilators, and has increased domestic production since the coronavirus outbreak.

Data experts and some medics say many machines in use outside Russia’s big cities are old, but TASS said the ventilator in St. Petersburg was new and had been installed this month.

Radio-Electronic Technologies Concern (KRET), which controls UPZ, said its ventilators had passed all the necessary tests and had been used by medical facilities in Russia since 2012 without any safety concerns.

“We’re looking at different scenarios: the state of the (electricity) network, the medical institutions’ engineering infrastructure, the medical equipment, and compliance with fire safety rules,” it said in a statement. “We call on the media and other interested parties not to rush to conclusions and wait for the results of official checks.”

US firms and nationals have been barred from doing business with KRET since July 2014.

Russia has reported 232,243 cases of the new coronavirus and 2,116 deaths.

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