Moscow has started to investigate the safety of a Russian-made medical ventilator, some of which have been sent to the U.S. despite not being used after six people were killed in hospital fires that were reported to involve two such devices.
According to an on-site lawyer, five people died on Tuesday at Saint George’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, including four in an intensive care unit for coronaviruses. A source reported to the TASS news agency that the fire broke out after a ventilator that allowed critically ill COVID-19 patients to breathe blazed on the ward.
A similar fire caused by the same ventilator model, according to a law enforcement agency speaking to TASS, killed one person in a hospital in Moscow on Saturday.
Roszdravnadzor, Russia's health watchdog, said he would check the quality and safety of the ventilators in the two hospitals, and St. Petersburg Hospital said it would stop using the model in question for the time being. At least two Russian regions informed the Russian news agencies that they would also stop using the ventilators.
The manufacturer urged people not to rush to conclusions.
The model in question, the Aventa-M, was sent from Russia to the United States in early April to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic. It is manufactured by a company that is under US sanctions.
The ventilators were never used in hospitals in the U.S., said Janet Montesi, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency. The machines were delivered to New York and New Jersey, the most severely affected U.S. states. "However, the flattening curve meant that these ventilators were not needed," she said.
States are returning the ventilators to FEMA, and the investigation by the Russian authorities will help the agency decide whether to use them in the future, Montesi said.
The Ural Instrument Engineering Plant (UPZ) in Chelyabinsk, 1,500 km east of Moscow, confirmed that the Aventa-M was one of its products and was delivered to the Saint George & # 39; s Hospital.
"We have no official data on which devices were installed in the fire zone (St. Petersburg)," added a spokeswoman.
Russia is relatively well equipped with ventilators and has increased domestic production since the outbreak of the corona virus.
Data experts and some medical professionals say that many of the machines outside of major Russian cities are old, but TASS said the St. Petersburg ventilator was new and 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 institutions in Russia without safety concerns since 2012.
"We look at different scenarios: the state of the (electricity) network, the technical infrastructure of the medical facilities, the medical equipment and compliance with the fire protection regulations," says a statement. "We urge the media and other interested parties not to rush to conclusions and to wait for the results of official controls."
US companies and nationals have not been allowed to do business with KRET since July 2014.
Russia has reported 232,243 cases of the novel coronavirus and 2,116 deaths.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)