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  • Coronavirus:- British Doctors Warn Some Chinese Ventilators Could Kill If Used In Hospitals
  • LONDON — Senior British doctors have warned that 250 ventilators the United Kingdom bought from China risk causing “significant patient harm, including death,” if they are used in hospitals, according to a letter seen by NBC News.
    The doctors said the machines had a problematic oxygen supply, could not be cleaned properly, had an unfamiliar design and a confusing instruction manual, and were built for use in ambulances, not hospitals.
    The British case is not an isolated one, and it comes as a stark example of a procurement problem that has plagued many countries as the coronavirus has spread throughout the world.
    Since March, many governments have been scrambling to buy more medical equipment — much of it from China — to make up for large gaps in their supplies. While much of this equipment has been vital in combating the pandemic, some has been faulty or unsuitable.
    As in the United States, the government in Britain has been heavily criticized for its coronavirus response.
    With more than 26,000 people dead, critics say the government has failed to provide protective equipment for health care workers and widespread testing.
    On April 4, Cabinet ministers triumphantly announced that they had scored a much-needed win, buying 300 ventilators from China that were unloaded with some fanfare at a military base in England.
    “I’d like to thank the Chinese government for their support in securing that capacity,” Michael Gove, a senior member of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government, said at a briefing that day.
    But nine days later, a group of senior doctors and medical managers issued a grave warning about 250 ventilators that they had received, the Shangrila 510 model made by Beijing Aeonmed Co. Ltd., one of China’s major ventilator manufacturers.
    “We believe that if used, significant patient harm, including death, is likely,” according to an April 13 letter seen by NBC News. “We look forward to the withdrawal and replacement of these ventilators with devices better able to provide intensive care ventilation for our patients.”
    The doctors said that the ventilator’s oxygen supply was “variable and unreliable” and that its build quality was “basic.” Its fabric case could not be cleaned properly — essential when fighting a highly infectious virus — and it arrived with a “non-E.U.” oxygen connection hose.
    As well as these serious concerns about the quality of the ventilators, they said part of the reason they were unsafe was because the devices were unfamiliar to British doctors and unsuitable for use in the current crisis.
    Crucially, it was the wrong type of machine altogether: one that had been designed for use inside an ambulance rather than beside a hospital bed, according to the letter. Doctors said they had to jury-rig a makeshift stand for the device out of a hospital trolley.
    The letter was written by a senior anesthesia and intensive care doctor, who was representing a group of clinicians and senior managers working in and around Birmingham, the U.K.’s second-largest city and one of the country’s hardest hit areas.
    The doctor who wrote the letter works at the Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, a regional division of the U.K.’s publicly funded National Health Service, and it was directly addressed to a senior NHS official.
    The sender was not available for comment on what, if any, measures were taken to address the concerns raised.
    It is not clear who in the British healthcare system directly saw the letter, but the Department of Health and Social Care, which oversees the NHS and the purchase of ventilators from abroad, said in an email to NBC News that it was aware of doctors’ concerns and has raised them with the manufacturer.
    The department declined to answer several detailed questions about the letter, including how many of these ventilators were bought in total, why that model was chosen, and whether front-line doctors were consulted beforehand. It said none of the ventilators are currently in use.
    On Friday, after the original publication of this article, the department issued a statement saying that “no patients are at risk” because of the ventilators.
    After repeated emails and phone calls, NBC News got through to the international sales manager for Beijing Aeonmed, who said “I don’t know” when asked whether the company was aware of the concerns about its product before hanging up the phone.
    The company has not responded to detailed questions about this model of ventilator, nor about where else in the world it has been exported.

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