MOSCOW – Moscow has started investigating the safety of a Russian-made medical ventilator, some of which have been shipped to the United States but have not been used, after six people died in hospital fires allegedly involving two such machines.
Five people died on Tuesday at St. George’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, including four in a coronavirus intensive care unit, according to a local lawyer. A source told the TASS news agency that the fire broke out after a respirator, used to help critically ill COVID-19 patients breathe, went up in the department.
A similar fire – caused by the same ventilation model, according to a law enforcement source speaking to TASS – killed a person in a Moscow hospital on Saturday.
Roszdravnadzor, the Russian health watchdog, said it would monitor the quality and safety of the fans in the two hospitals, and the St. Petersburg hospital said it would discontinue use of the model in question for the time being. At least two Russian regions told Russian news agencies that they would also suspend the use of the fans.
The manufacturer urged people not to draw conclusions too quickly.
The model in question, the Aventa-M, was one of the models shipped from Russia to the United States in early April to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. It is made by a company that is under US sanctions.
The fans have never been deployed in hospitals in the United States, said Janet Montesi, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency. The machines were delivered to New York and New Jersey, the United States was most affected by the virus, but “the flattening curve meant these fans were unnecessary,” she said.
The states will return the fans to FEMA, and the investigation by the Russian authorities will aid the agency’s decision on future use, 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 Saint George’s Hospital.
“We have no official records of which devices are installed in the zone of the (St. Petersburg) fire,” added a spokeswoman.
Russia is relatively well-stocked with fans and has increased domestic production since the coronavirus outbreak.
Data experts and some clinicians say that many machines used outside of Russia’s major cities are old, but TASS said the St. Petersburg fan was new and installed this month.
Radio-Electronic Technologies Concern (KRET), which operates UPZ, said the fans have passed all necessary tests and have been used by medical institutions in Russia without medical concerns since 2012.
“We are looking at different scenarios: the condition of the (electricity) network, the technical infrastructure of the medical institutions, the medical equipment and compliance with the fire safety rules,” said a statement. “We call on the media and other interested parties not to jump to conclusions and wait for the results of official controls.”
US companies and nationals have been banned from doing business with KRET since July 2014.
Russia has reported 232,243 cases of the new coronavirus and 2,116 deaths.