KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 17 – Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii today called for serious action against the parties responsible for a ventilator scandal during the Covid-19 pandemic as exposed by the Auditor-General.
The Auditor-General’s 2021 Report (Series 2), tabled in Parliament yesterday, revealed that Pharmaniaga Logistics Sdn Bhd – a fully-owned subsidiary of pharmaceutical company Pharmaniaga Bhd, a government-linked company – had supplied the Ministry of Health (MOH) only 28 usable ventilators, just 6 per cent of the government’s order of 500 ventilators.
Another 108 ventilators, among the 136 that were delivered to MOH facilities between April and May 2020, were not safe for patient use.
Ninety-three of the 108 unusable ventilators received by the government were defective, costing the government about RM13 million in losses that could not be recovered because no agreement was signed between Pharmaniaga Logistics and MOH on the company’s appointment, as the procurement was done under emergency procurement protocols and it was based on the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR).
The MOH made an advance payment of RM30 million to Pharmaniaga Logistics, as approved by the Ministry of Finance (MOF) under emergency procurement, of which RM6.97 million was returned by the company to the government in June 2020.
Government auditors said the cost of the overall procurement of 136 ventilators supplied by Pharmaniaga Logistics was about RM24 million, including the cost of upgrades of certain units.
“Such life-saving equipments were so vital during the Covid-19 pandemic, and such negligence not only caused wastage of public funds, but more importantly, may have compromised the quality care of patients, which may have even caused loss of precious lives,” Dr Yii said in a statement today.
“We can never forget, especially during the peak wave of Covid-19, with many hospitals around the country struggling to keep Covid-19 patients alive amid shortages of staff, oxygen supply, and medication.
“Wards were full, while equipment like ventilators and oxygen canisters were insufficient. Some medical professionals were put in the impossible position to prioritise certain medical equipment, including ventilators, for certain patients over others, which will definitely affect the quality of care for other patients.”
The government backbencher from the DAP also questioned the absence of documentation of the government’s procurement of the ventilators from Pharmaniaga Logistics – even if it was emergency procurement – “especially when it involves millions of ringgit of public funds”.
“Wouldn’t that have given better legal protection for the Ministry of Health and the different parties that are involved against liability or incidents such as this?” Dr Yii said.
“That is why I believe the different parties that are involved have to answer and be accountable and this matter must not be taken lightly or swept under the carpet.
“If proven there are elements of negligence, action has to be taken and the ones responsible must be held accountable, as such actions would have also directly jeopardised the quality of care of patients, especially during the pandemic.”
CodeBlue has asked the MOH for a statement on the ventilator scandal.