HSE completes internal investigation into purchase of Chinese ventilators

The inspection was concerned with the €9.4m acquisition of 465 ventilators from China during the initial phase of the pandemic
HSE completes internal investigation into purchase of Chinese ventilators

The health service paid €14.1m to a media management company, Roqu Media International, for the delivery of 328 ventilators on March 23 last year. File picture: AP/ John Minchillo

An internal investigation into the HSE’s purchase of €10m Chinese ventilators which were never used has been completed – but there is no timeframe for its publication.

The six-month internal audit review into the procurement of ventilators as part of the Covid-19 response from February 2020 onwards saw a draft report submitted to the HSE on March 9, 2021.

In response to a parliamentary question from Sinn Féin TD Louise O’Reilly as to when the final report will be published, the head of the HSE’s Health Business Services division John Swords said “the position has not changed regarding this ventilator report”.

“It is the subject matter to an internal audit report and we will endeavour to publish as soon as possible,” Mr Swords said.

Access to the same report was previously refused to the Irish Examiner under freedom of information due to the potential to prejudice both the effectiveness of the audit in question and negotiations ongoing “with a number of the suppliers involved in this area to resolve contractual issues”.

However, at that time, the HSE’s internal audit division noted it was standard practice “to release all audit reports under FOI requests in due course, and that the refusal in this case will be temporary”.

465 ventilators from China

The initial notification memorandum dispatched by the general manager conducting the audit on September 17, 2020, noted that the inspection would concern itself solely with the €9.4m acquisition of 465 ventilators from China during the initial phase of the pandemic, as opposed to the €21.2m spent on the procurement of devices from "traditional sources”.

That memo notes that the principle objectives of the audit, which was slated to take roughly four weeks to conduct, were to determine the timelines associated with the procurement, how the requirements were determined, who made and authorised the decisions, and whether or not clinical expertise was requested.

The health service paid €14.1m to a media management company, Roqu Media International, for the delivery of 328 ventilators on March 23 last year.

However, just 65 units were delivered in the end, none of which were ever clinically deployed due to some units failing to match minimum quality thresholds.

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