A Co Clare building company which became Ireland’s largest supplier of Covid-19 PPE, agreed an order with the HSE for Chinese ventilators at a price 75% above the average cost for such machines.
EKO Integrated Services, an Ennis-based company, agreed to supply 100 VG70 ventilators from China to the HSE in early April of 2020 at a cost of €65,000 per unit.
The average price paid by the HSE per ventilator during the Covid procurement period was €37,100 per device, including those machines sourced from previously recognised supply lines.
Other suppliers delivering VG70 ventilators from China at the time ranged their units in price from €13,800 up to €54,933.
All told, 10 suppliers, including EKO, were contracted to deliver ventilators from China at the beginning of the pandemic.
While the total price agreed for the EKO ventilators was €6.5 million the actual amount paid to the Clare firm was €9.14 million after the HSE cancelled the ventilator contract and converted it to one for PPE.
EKO received its initial contracts with the HSE following the intervention of Alan Kelly, the Labour Party leader, who recommended the use of their services to both HSE chief executive Paul Reid and its head of procurement Sean Bresnan on the back of the company’s existing supply lines with China, from where much of the PPE being sourced globally at the time was being delivered.
“EKO Integrated Services put a proposal to the HSE for the provision of modular pods in early March 2020 that included specified technical equipment including ventilators,” a spokesperson for the company said.
While that proposal did not come to fruition, the HSE subsequently reverted to EKO to source other products, including ventilators.
“Products from China were sourced and fully costed (including freight, transportation and delivery) with the stipulation that ventilator deliveries needed to be in Ireland as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said, adding that the order was subsequently cancelled “we assume because of the number of competing suppliers and the time-critical nature of the order”.
They acknowledged that an order valued at €9.1 million for PPE was subsequently provided by EKO, “including gloves and gowns”.
A spokesperson for the HSE said that “the market environment... was such that traditional sourcing channels were severely compromised” at the time.
They said that many organisations had provided offers of assistance at that time, including EKO.
They said that the price of €65,000 was “a product of the market environment at the time”. “Unprecedented demand and limited supply drove pricing upwards for all global healthcare systems,” they said.